Date of this Version
Published in S. Goldstein, R. B. Brooks (eds.), Handbook of Resilience in Children (2023)
Schools have historically been the great equalizer in American communities—the “ticket out” for youth struggling to overcome adversity and poverty (Pianta & Walsh, 1998). For children who immigrated to the United States at the turn of the twentieth century schools were safe havens where they learned English received public health services and became literate and employable (Fagan, 2000; Goldstein, 2014). As each wave of homesteaders moved west across the country schools popped up alongside the newly broken sod. Universal access to public education is a defining feature of the North American society and schools are fertile settings for promoting youth’s intellectual psychological and personal competence (Luthar & Eisenberg, 2017; Masten, 2014)
The purpose of this chapter is to reframe this American dream around contemporary research and conceptual frameworks of resilience, and to show how these frameworks can be foundations for classroom level interventions that contribute to students’ psychological wellness and strengthen their competence. The chapter uses Masten and Coatsworth’s (1998) simple definition of resilience: “Resilience is how children overcome adversity to achieve good developmental outcomes” (p. 205). Within this definition, our own sons and daughters would not be considered “resilient” although they are successful adults, because they did not struggle with significant adversity in their first three decades of life. Alternatively, in many schools where we have worked, substantial numbers of children came to school hungry, frightened, with inadequate clothing, or with shocking memories of family or community violence and abuse. Resilience describes the conditions that allow these children to succeed nevertheless.