Today, I’m thrilled to share a conversation with Dr. Wayne Hammond. Dr. Hammond is the President and Executive Director of Resiliency Initiatives where he and his team work to build resiliency in students to effectively cope with life’s challenges. Here are some highlights from our conversation.
Tim Elmore: Wayne, you’ve worked in education and with educators for decades, take a moment and share exactly what you do.
Wayne Hammond: Well my background is as a clinical psychologist. So I was raised in the model that when kids have challenges, our first response is to diagnose what’s wrong. Then we thought if we can remediate it, then the child should do fine. What I learned in practice very quickly was that people don’t want to be fixed, but they want to be valued. When students feel valued and you start with what is important to you, then they tend to accept those challenges and risks when we have to invite them into in the learning process. So instead of seeing kids at risk, we see kids with potential.
It’s just my belief that every student wants to be successful and be a part of something bigger than themselves. They all have greatness inside of themselves. It’s our job as educators to help them explore what is right about them. It’s how kids see themselves, see their strengths, how they draw upon it, and how they allow others to support them that actually creates a lifelong journey for them.
Tim: I love that approach. Dr. Hammond, talk about how you have developed this keen interest and deep concern for resilience in students today. You do see their potential, but also that many of them aren’t reaching it because they aren’t able to bounce back.
Wayne: Well part of the journey is to hear those stories and identify what are those strengths. I go back to a story about Terry Fox High School. It was in the bottom ten of the school division in all indicators: academic, health, and behavioral issues. Within three years, they are now in the top tenth of the school division in academic performance, behavior issues, and mental health concerns.
The biggest factor we focused on was shifting the culture of the school from simply providing content, to seeing the kids’ potential. We worked with the teachers, which I believe is the greatest asset of a school. The reason being is that they are the ones that have relationships. It’s a journey for us to support this capacity for kids to take smart risks, become part of something bigger than themselves, and to know what success really means.
Tim: We’re on the same page there. In an earlier conversation, you talked about the four steps that schools or educators need to take with students. Would you take a moment and talk about those four steps and why they’re important?
Wayne: The first step is to put relationships before directing. It’s about connecting and building that trust factor. The second step is about inspiring. But that inspiration often doesn’t come because kids don’t believe in themselves until someone else believes in them first. It’s all about connecting and inspiring. The third step is about building upon what they bring, building up what they need, and building forward. The fourth step is about teaching them how to be adaptable and show that perseverance.
These kids can do amazing things; they just don’t know it yet. It’s our job to facilitate that process. I believe the goal of education is to create an environment where kids are going to thrive, whether that is junior high, senior high, or college/university.