Resilience is complex and multifaceted, attracting research across a number of disciplines. The focus of this chapter is the importance of teachers’ everyday practice in early years settings (preschools and schools) for supporting resilience. Examples are drawn from an Australian Research Council (ARC)-funded longitudinal study that studied resilience during times of significant transitions in the lives of children and young adults in low socio-economic communities experiencing vulnerability. The conditions and characteristics of resilience were explored with consideration for the educational, health, work-related or leisure interventions that support and foster resilience. Findings from the early years cohort of the study point out the practical approaches and strategies that promote and protect resilience in young children as outlined in this chapter. These strategies relate to the environment, relationships, classroom practices and play skills, and give prominence to aspects such as supportive relationships with adults, developing self-regulation, promoting social-emotional learning and the provision of positive learning environments. Our focus is on the implications for teachers and the classroom environment.
The chapter begins with a brief outline of how resilience is defined, and then moves on to describe ways in which teachers working across the early years promote resilience. The final section of the chapter lists questions that can be useful to help early years teachers reflect on their own practice in relation to resilience.
Nature of Resilience
The word ‘resilience’ conjures up images of confident children with well developed positive peer relationships, bouncing back from adverse situations and events. In our research we define resilient children as those who thrive and develop despite challenging circumstances. Resilience is a dynamic process contingent on a person's personal attributes, caregiver relationships, and psycho-social and socio-cultural environment. An easygoing temperament and the ability for internal self-regulation (Benzies & Mychasiuk, 2009), average to high IQ and connections and attachments (Alvord & Grados, 2005), and high curiosity about new situations are all associated with resilience (Condly, 2006). Parental behaviour such as displaying warmth and positive attitudes, being more involved with their children, and providing strong guidance are closely linked with a child's social and emotional wellbeing (Kim-Cohen et al., 2004; Sunderland, 2007).