The Head’s Tale – Building Resiliency

In mid-September, students from K – 12, as well as staff, participate in our annual Outweek Activities. As has been the norm at SMS for over 25 years, our students in grades 6 – 12 go up to Strathcona Provincial Park and choose a “Challenge by Choice” adventure such as hiking, climbing, canoeing, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, caving, or camping. For those students who have a passion for the outdoors, this is a welcomed experience! For those who may not be as adventurous or who have not been exposed to these types of activities, their spirit, skills, and ability to come together as a team are tested. In either case, there is lots to be learned from living the experience with your peers and teachers—who, by the way, may also be pushing themselves outside of their comfort levels. Sometimes the learning focuses on developing a new skill, refining or discovering a new passion, or trying something new not knowing if it will be a positive or negative experience.

During our first assembly since returning from Outweek, as I sat and listened to the girls share their Strathcona adventures with the whole school, I realized that their experiences during Outweek exemplify the goals which are embedded in our Strategic Plan. Our girls are provided with unique and diverse educational experiences that enable them to develop self-confidence, make connections with nature and service, and, finally, practice courage. For those students whose experiences are tested by the weather or the toughness of the challenge chosen, I believe that they have come back stronger, more capable, and empowered, and that they will be able to add that newfound characteristic to their “resiliency toolbox,” better preparing them for their next challenge.

Building resiliency is a very important life skill that needs to be practiced daily. It can be as simple as reframing your thinking (from a half-empty to a half-full perspective); valuing the learning that comes from discomfort (the “nothing can break my spirit” attitude); accomplishing or enduring more than you thought you could (the “happy warrior” persona); and finally building upon the camaraderie of the group to get through the experience (the “together is better “mantra). Sometimes you never know how strong you are until being strong is the only option you have!

Resilient people generally have four traits in common:

  1. Adaptability – The ability to find multiple ways to solve a problem or draw from past experiences.

  2. Agility – The ability to use past learnings (wisdom) to nimbly put solutions into action.

  3. Laughability – The ability to find the positives and the humour in the situation, which comes in part from knowing what is really important and what is not important.

  4. Alignment – The ability to know your purpose in order to celebrate the effort as much as the accomplishment.

The learning journey can be just as empowering as revelling in a positive outcome. In fact, sometimes, being exposed to disappointment or a struggle at an early age can help us manage our emotions and realize that we cannot always control the environment or results. What we can control is how we frame those experiences, own our attitudes, and apply that information in the future.

Strength of character shines through the stories people tell that highlight their challenges, reveal the ways they faced adversity, and demonstrate their willingness to continue to test their resolve by challenging themselves anew.

A special thank you to those students who willingly shared their Strathcona experiences which I hope will get all our girls (and staff) thinking about their next “Challenge by Choice” experience.


Courage does not always roar; sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day

saying, “I will try again tomorrow!”

Mary Anne Radmacher


“Tough times don’t last; tough people do.”


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