Lesson 18: Resilience

Materials Needed

Sticky notes

Pens or pencils

Reflection Prompts

  • I can describe how I react to changes in life, emotionally and behaviorally.
  • I persevere through challenges with a good attitude.
  • I balance the desire to succeed with reality.
  • I maintain a growth mindset in the midst of transitions.
  • I see change as an opportunity for growth.

Learning Objectives

The purpose of this lesson is to help educators analyze their individual patterns of adjusting to change and building attitudes of resilience. They will work to develop beliefs and strategies to use when any kind of change occurs. Change can be difficult to cope with, but a growth mindset and resilient outlook can help.

Lesson Content

Resilience is an attribute of people who focus positively and adjust well to change. Those with resilience have an “ability to recover and rebound from challenges and setbacks.” Not only that, but they face challenges head-on, using coping strategies and recovery techniques. Even traumatic events such as “job loss, financial problems, serious illness, relationship challenges, or the death of a loved one” are manageable when exercising resilience, according to Kendra Cherry at Verywell Mind.

Resilience and the ability to adjust well to change are character traits that we can acquire and strengthen in our own lives. These traits help us to succeed and to thrive through hard times with a passion to fulfill our purposes in life.

Essential Terms
Lesson Plan


As a group, come up with a list of words that describe these characters. How are some characters similar and some different?

  • Charlie Brown from Peanuts
  • Anakin from Star Wars
  • Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh
  • Fantine from Les Mis
  • Neville Longbottom in H. Potter
  • The Grinch by Dr. Seuss
  • Rapunzel by Disney
  • Anne from Green Gables
  • Calvin from Calvin & Hobbes
  • Mark Watney from The Martian

Read the following quotes as a group to distinguish between resilience and non-resilience. As you read, create a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast.

Resilient People – Bret A. Moore Psy.D., ABPP at Psychology Today

  • “Positive vs. negative. Resilient individuals tend to foster positive emotions more than negative ones. They view life optimistically and are hopeful about the future. They appreciate humor and can laugh at themselves. They choose gratefulness over cynicism.”
  • “Task-oriented. Instead of passively waiting to see what happens, resilient people identify issues that can be changed and then change them. And when something can’t be changed, they learn to accept it.”
  • “Flexible thinking. Cognitive rigidity is the enemy of resiliency. The ability to think on your feet and generate alternative solutions, thoughts and ideas is key to maintaining psychological strength. Limited options lead to limited solutions.”

Non-Resilient People – Bret A. Moore Psy.D., ABPP at Psychology Today

  • “Self-focused defeatism. Non-resilient individuals adopt a defeatist attitude, seeing themselves as victims and bystanders with little control over what happens to them. They entertain such thoughts as, ‘I’m broken,’ ‘I’m weak’ or ‘Life is just too hard.’”
  • “Emotional disengagement. It’s easy to emotionally withdraw. What’s harder is to purposefully confront the thoughts and feelings that make us uncomfortable. Denial, isolation and avoidance are hallmarks of a lack of resilience.”
  • “Avoid competing viewpoints. We tend to gravitate toward people who agree with us—and when we find those people, we latch on. While it can be helpful to align with people who share our views and support our positions, we risk having any of our maladaptive thoughts and behaviors reinforced. Finding people who aren’t afraid to challenge you every now and then can help your resiliency.”

Revisit the characters discussed before. Who is resilient? Who is not?

Extension: What other characters would you add to each list or both?

Have a discussion:

  • Can you relate to both the resilience and non-resilience descriptions?
  • How does our resilience or non-resilience affect our work?


Watch the video, “How to Stop Cognitive Distortions: Bad Thoughts and Poison Minds,” by Urth. Pass out the Cognitive Distortions Notes handout to each teacher.

Then sort educators into 10 groups and pass out 1 of the Cognitive Distortions quote to each group. Assign each group the task to quickly summarize the cognitive disorder assigned to their group. After sufficient time, invite each group to present their topic to the whole group.

Then, think-pair-share to revise the distorted thoughts on the slide into clear and true thoughts. Discuss in small groups and share the revised thoughts with the group.

Have a discussion:

  • Do you ever see cognitive distortions at work?
  • How can cognitive distortions affect our ability to adjust to change and exercise resilience?

Activity 3: (30 Minutes) RESILIENCE PIE

Read the definitions together, as defined by Elena Aguilar.

Resilience is…

  • “A way of being that allows us to bounce back quickly from adversity, and stronger than before, so that we can fulfill our purpose in life.”
  • “An adaptive, dynamic process that includes an individual’s interactions over time in a complex environment. Context plays a role; resilience is not simply a function of one individual’s behavior. Who we are and where we are impact our ability to cultivate resilience.”
  • “Cultivated through engaging in specific habits and by fostering specific dispositions.”
  • “What enables us to thrive, not just survive.”

Introduce Aguilar’s Resilience Pie

Review the information and quotes on the slides and have a discussion about each section of the pie:

  1. WHO You Are (Genetics, Values, Personality) 
  • “A great deal of who we are is somewhat fixed in our genetics, personality, identities, and so on. However, we can cultivate resilience through deep understanding of these dimensions of who we are—which can also help us understand where we can influence or even change aspects of ourselves that we consider fixed.” (Elena Aguilar)
  • Unfortunately, some people get down on themselves because they use their mistakes and low self-esteem to define themselves.
  • “Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behavior. Shame is ‘I am bad.’ Guilt is ‘I did something bad.’ How many of you, if you did something that was hurtful to me, would be willing to say, ‘I’m sorry. I made a mistake?’ How many of you would be willing to say that? Guilt: I’m sorry. I made a mistake. Shame: I’m sorry. I am a mistake.” (Brené Brown)

Extension: TED Talk, Listening to Shame by Brené Brown [8]

Have a discussion:

  • Why do you think Aguilar chose to make “WHO” the largest section?
  • How can shame affect our resilience?
  • How can our genetics, values, or personalities affect our resilience?
  • How can I see both my strengths and my room for improvement?
  1. WHERE You Are (Context Matters)

According to Aguilar, “where” can include circumstances and situation; sociopolitical, cultural, and economic context; stages of life; and phase of career.

Have a discussion:

  • How does WHERE we are affect our personal resilience?
  • How can the perception of our context be both positive and negative?
  1. WHAT You Do (Habits of Resilience)

Pass out the Habits and Dispositions of Emotionally Resilient Educators handout to each teacher. Invite them to scan the list and decide which 2-3 habits/dispositions that come more easily to them and 1 habit/disposition that they find is more difficult to implement.

Have a discussion:

What is a habit from this list that you think would help you at work? Why?

  1. HOW You Are (Emotions and Dispositions)

According to Aguilar, a disposition is:

  • Temperament, character, constitution, attitude, mindset, or mood
  • Our way of being
  • Demonstrated through behavior or a habit
  • A reflection of a person’s beliefs and thinking

Have a discussion:

How can our emotions and dispositions affect our resilience?

Activity 4: (15 Minutes) RESILIENCE PLAYLIST

Make your own copy of the Resilience Playlist by clicking this link. Pass out sticky notes for teachers to take notes on. Then invite educators to brainstorm and research affirmations that inspire them to be resilient. They will add their quote or thought to the shared slides. After sufficient time, read through the “Resilience Playlist” together as a group. Invite participants to jot down any quotes that inspire them on more sticky notes. Finally, encourage educators to place their sticky notes in a place where they can see these affirmations regularly.

Here are some examples:

  • “Rise each time you fall” or “Get up and win the race!” (D.H. Groberg)
  • “Treat failure like a scientist. No emotion, just information. Then pivot.” (James Clear)
  • “Many people think of perfectionism as striving to be your best, but it is not about self-improvement; it’s about earning approval and acceptance.” (Brené Brown)

Activity 5: (15 minutes) GRIT

Watch the video, “Grit: the power of passion and perseverance,” by Angela Lee Duckworth at TED. Then share the quote from Angela Duckworth.

Then pass the Becoming Grittier handout to each educator. Walk through the slides and invite educators to complete the first 3 sections on the handout. The last two (implement and review) are designed to be completed at home.

Finally, read through some tips for success, based on Elena Aguilar’s work.

Discussion/Journal Prompts
  • How does our attitude affect our resilience and well-being?
  • How can I choose empowerment rather than survival?
  • How can I choose to stay engaged and in solution-finding mode rather than disengaged and disheartened or defeated?
  • Analyze your language. Do you use superlatives and negative thinking?
  • When lots of things are changing, maintain normal routines, if possible.
  • Use your social circles to help adapt to change and share the load.
  • Take an honest look at how WHO, WHERE, WHAT, and HOW you are is affecting you, and use those facts to stay positive and move forward.
Application & Extension

Read Perseverance by Margaret J. Wheatley