Thinkers, Feelers, Thinker-Feelers, and None of the Above — Let’s Not Trust Resilience

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“That’s why we have to train kids to be resilient,” a teacher said, referring to my last post.

I feel compelled to respond to this quick answer to the problem of testing run amok. Teaching resilience and growth mindsets to our kids has a place, but we cannot keep running up from the lake with buckets of water to put out the fires we are starting in the first place. Yes, students who learn coping techniques for stress are better off than students who are left without that support. But the problem with looking to resilience training and growth mindset as antidotes to a stressful learning climate rests in the infinite variety of kids themselves.

Not all kids can shut down emotionally, but a surprising number can. In Myers-Briggs terms, some kids are thinkers, some are feelers and a percentage hover in the middle. Some go down obediently. Some fight back against the injustice of America’s inappropriate tests and standards. Some judge themselves wanting while others perceive they are playing a loaded game and decide not to play.

Current wisdom wants us to believe that resilience can be cultivated through use of positive-feedback loops, and in my experience that concept stands up to scrutiny – to a degree. The girl who gives herself positive self-messages has a better chance of standing up to the test onslaught than more pessimistic counterparts. “I will study harder and I will do better on the next quiz” certainly beats “I hate this stupid class and I can’t do math.”

Eduhonesty: We have to stop trying to use behavioral strategies to “fix” kids as a means of undoing damage we may be doing to those kids. How much stress is too much stress? Does the stress from testing for as much as 20% of a year ever provide enough useful information to justify the emotional roller-coaster from that testing?

I am not criticizing other educators. Until I retired, I worked constantly to boost self-esteem, create growth mindsets, and teach kids to give themselves positive self-messages. But I also watched certain kids sinking, as their hope fled and their self-images crumbled.

We didn’t start the fire…
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

We are trying to fight it.

We are trying to fix our kids.

We should be reshaping their world — and shutting down this quest for excessive amounts of marginally useless data — instead.