The annual Marquardt Award enables one or more members of Rowland Hall's faculty to pursue an in-depth professional development experience. The Marquardt Award was established in 2011 through a generous gift from Bob Marquardt, father of three Rowland Hall alumni and a former long-time trustee and board chair. This annual gift funds extraordinary professional development opportunities or learning experiences, proposed by faculty members, that will benefit the school as a whole. Recipients are chosen by school administrators.
Last summer, fifth-grade teacher Sarah Button was granted the Marquardt Award to attend Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators: An Intensive Residential Institute with Elena Aguilar. In the fall of 2018, Sarah began to lead a professional-development group based on Aguilar’s book Onward, and thus attending the retreat was a prime opportunity for her to advance her ongoing work in this area, which benefits our entire learning community. Read on to learn about how the experience impacted and inspired her.
2019 Marquardt Award Reflection
By Sarah Button
My four days at Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators: An Intensive Residential Institute were, in a word, transformative. Our time was made more intimate by grouping us into what they called home groups. My group consisted of three additional educators: an administrator, an instructional coach, and a specialist. Having home groups allowed the 46 participants—from all over the country—to know each other more deeply, and it enabled all to be vulnerable as we each shared stories, perspectives, and insights.
Building psychological safety happens when people listen, stay curious, are honest, and uphold confidentiality with one another.
I was prepared to be inundated with information, research, findings, and time to plan for the 2019–2020 school year. What I wasn’t prepared for was the gift of time to write, reflect, and truly practice how to bring resilience into daily routines—more specifically, learning and practicing the importance of sharing stories with others. When we build time for storytelling into our faculty meetings (a practice Lower School Principal Jij de Jesus has let me lead for each of our monthly meetings so far), we lay the foundation for building effective teams that contribute to psychological safety. Building psychological safety happens when people listen, stay curious, are honest, and uphold confidentiality with one another. We also learned to understand how the cycle of an emotion can be interrupted, and how when you understand emotions you have empathy for others and it is much less likely for you to oppress another. Lastly, as a participant, we practiced coaching for resilience using several frameworks.
ACE: a framework for coaching for yourself or others
A: Acknowledge and accept emotions.
C: Cultivate compassion.
E: Expand the story.
RAIN: for dealing with difficult emotions
R: Recognize what’s going on; name the emotions.
A: Allow the experience to be there, just as it is.
I: Investigate with kindness.
N: Non-identify with whatever is going on. You are not your thoughts, stories, emotions.
REI: for addressing cognitive distortions
E: Explore the impact.
I: Interrupt: Is there any other way to look at this? Is there any evidence to suggest that this way
of thinking isn’t entirely true?
Each day at the retreat started with a choice of yoga or meditation under the redwoods. To begin, we each set an intention—a practice I’ve begun this school year with my students—and after each activity, we took time to envision how each practice/idea could be used in our individual places of work. Each day also consisted of must-dos—things we were encouraged to do no matter what during our stay, such as sitting by the fire pit with at least one other person. We were also presented with may-dos each day, such as watching the sunrise through the trees.
The work on how to cultivate emotional resilience in educators was the primary purpose of our time together. Most attendees had not led Onward professional-development sessions at their home institutions, and thus, I was called upon to share how we at Rowland Hall created our group last school year. People were appreciative of how we approached the work.
Ultimately, our hope is that increasing emotional resilience among adults at Rowland Hall will create a stronger learning environment for students, and we can model the skills and behaviors we hope to see from everyone in our community.
The retreat was also an opportunity for me to collaborate with colleague Lori Miller, who was a participant in our Onward professional-development work last year and my fellow ombudsperson for the Lower School faculty. As ombudspersons, we have served in the way the role has been written to be a neutral third party between faculty and/or administration when a problem has risen to a level that needs intervention. Over the years, our work has morphed into serving as a sounding board for faculty to see if they need a formal ombudsperson to sit in on a meeting. As a result, the majority of our work is now facilitating communication between colleagues. When a colleague approaches me regarding an issue, I ask if they just need to vent, want to practice what to say to a colleague, or if they need to have a formal ombudsperson meeting. This is why this retreat was so critical to our work: it gave us the tools to practice facilitating communication and coaching our colleagues around emotions and resilience.
At the conclusion of the retreat, I felt renewed in all aspects of life and prepared to bring this work back to our faculty and staff. Lori and I have collaborated with our third Onward co-leader, Jodi Spiro, to facilitate work during our three professional growth days this school year. In addition, Lori and I are participating in monthly Onward video conference calls with the other participants of the institute to share ideas, strategies, and questions as we each try to transform school culture at our respective places. Ultimately, our hope is that increasing emotional resilience among adults at Rowland Hall will create a stronger learning environment for students, and we can model the skills and behaviors we hope to see from everyone in our community.