An Independent School • Grades 5-12
Building resilience from the start

by Julie Lutton, 5-12 human development and health department head

The 9th grade Human Development and Health course kicks off with a vital unit: Resilience. One of Lakeside’s competencies, resilience proves to be an essential skill in the lives of adolescents as they begin high school. The 9th-grade course begins with this unit in order to set a positive tone for students at the very start of their Upper School careers — there will be challenges along the way, but students have inner strengths they can use to address them, and they can build resilience as they navigate difficult events. 

The unit encourages students to explore what resilience means to them and consider how resilience is affected by one’s identities and contexts. This opening to the course encourages students to consider how our cultures and backgrounds allow us to bring both unique strengths and unique challenges in our approaches to the difficult events that life inevitably brings. The Resilience unit asks students to consider sources like Dr. Lucy Hone’s TED Talk, “3 Secrets of Resilient People” (content warning: child mortality), and Jia Jiang’s book, Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible, One Rejection at a Time, to learn how they might navigate through grief, rejection, and disappointment.

After seeing how others have built their resilience, the learning next becomes personal. Students create a resilience plan for themselves, focusing on how they can build their skills within the four S's of resilience: sagacity, support, solution-seeking, and strategies. Students then share their resilience plans with one another to highlight that this is a need we all share in common. The unit culminates in a “resilience interview” in which 9th graders are asked to interview an older Lakeside community member to learn more about how that person has dealt with difficult experiences during their time at Lakeside. This interview serves as an onboarding experience for our 9th graders, allowing them to connect with an experienced community member and helping to fold them into the Lakeside community. Ninth graders, older students, faculty, and staff alike remark on the profundity of sharing what it means to be resilient at the end of these interviews.

Students take away many lessons from the Resilience unit, including that resilience looks different for everyone and that it is a necessary skill in life. Students also frequently remark on how much they learn about how resilience can be built. As one student put it, “The main takeaway from this unit is that resilience is a skill that can be learned and improved upon. For a while, I thought that resilient people were just born that way, but now I realize that they probably have just been through more challenges and learned from them. I now think that I might go out and experience rejection more to increase my resilience skill.”

Julie Lutton, MA, LMHC, is Lakeside’s 5-12 human development and health department head.