Six months ago, when we first began planning this issue, we were focused on resilience of individuals, particularly in educational settings. The original introduction included a story about a thirteen- year-old who had a bad morning and didn’t want to go to school, who ultimately pulled herself together and had a fabulous day. The articles we looked for included personal stories about resilience, educational strategies for building resilience, and whether resilience can be taught. Little did we, or anyone, understand then just how critical this topic would become in such a short period of time.
The medical, public security, and political machines have been mobilized to war-time levels to battle the COVID-19 pandemic which has shut down a significant portion of the world. The battle to physically survive the disease is being led by these machines and success is dependent very much on their prudence, our ability to abide by the guidelines, and perhaps some help from above. But what about the battle we face beyond survival? To borrow from Viktor Frankl, it is our search for meaning – even under extreme circumstances – which marks the difference between surviving and thriving.
The educational systems were among the first hit by sweeping policy decisions and schools showed amazing grit in trying to maintain a sense of normalcy in a new and difficult reality. Teachers had to make dramatic changes in the way they helped students learn, and that process is probably only in its infancy. For students and their families, the situations were that much more complex, especially given the lack of clarity with regard to the immediate present or the near future. Will classes resume in a week, a month, or in six months? The level of uncertainty makes it hard for students to stay motivated. But does any of this count? Does any of it matter?
To a large extent, the basic of questions about resilience which we posed six months ago are just as relevant today, and perhaps even more so. How do we cultivate resilience? How do we help students develop and focus that internal drive to grow, to bounce back, to push forward in a world filled with uncertainty?
We decided to release this issue of the journal now, precisely because the issues are magnified, and we invited the authors, each one experiencing their own challenges adjusting to an unforeseen reality, to submit a brief video in which they address the current situation. We are grateful to those who managed to find the time, under short notice and with myriad other things to do. We encourage you to share as well – thoughts, strategies, reactions, tips – so that we can best learn from each other and pool our best ideas for helping our students to thrive in trying times and work toward building a better future.
Rabbi Zvi Grumet, Ed.D.