Rob Levit | March 2014

The Warrior Artist – Staying Resilient

It’s 5:18am and the twinge in my back and restless mind tell me it’s time to get out of bed. It’s been a typical night’s sleep – about five solid hours and then like a loud alarm clock, the mind is awake and the list begins – I am worried about the some of the high school students I worked with the day before; my wife and toddler son have a cold (again); I haven’t finished the lesson plan I promised for the school I am visiting next week; etc., etc., etc. Like I said, a typical night’s sleep.

Somehow, I manage to rollover, sit up and plant my feet on the floor. And then it begins – the series of rituals that bring structure, purpose and resilience to my day. With my feet planted firmly on the earth I offer words of gratitude and hope for the very students I worry about and am thankful, not fearful, for the many appointments and obligations I must fulfill today.

Still weary, but nonetheless awake and alive, I meander downstairs and hastily get my warm-up suit and running shoes on. It’s 5:40am and I am out the door for my morning walk. My trusty iPod accompanies me with a motivating and educational audiobook all cued up. A quick stop a City Dock Cafe in downtown Annapolis for some joe and all of the sudden the day starts to look full of promise – fresh air, new and exciting ideas in my headphones, hot coffee and many interesting people to experience and connect with as the day unfolds..

At 9:00am I will be at The Light House, an area homeless shelter, where I will be working with members of the BEST program where homeless adults learn custodial and culinary skills. My theme today is resilience and we’ll be creating poems, mandalas and personal reflections on our lives to drive the theme home. I am anticipating my workshop because I know the clients well and we have connected and enjoy co-learning. They have invested their time and energy in my ideas and I have invested in their journey toward successful employment and housing. It’s a great fit!

The twinge in my back is fading as my muscles warm up, I breathe deeply the fresh, cool morning air, savor the last taste of coffee and begin the day . . . a Warrior Artist committed to creativity, education and being resilient.

Question – What is resilience and why is it important to our work as educators?

The Rockefeller Foundation offers five very interesting hallmarks of resilience. How do they apply to you? Think about your personal life, educational practice and community:

Spare capacity, which ensures that there is a back-up or alternative available when a vital component of a system fails.

  • Do you practice gratitude each day to build mental and spiritual strength?
  • Is your body as fit as it needs to be so that you can be a Warrior Artist or Warrior Educator?
  • How do you build spare capacity – physically, emotionally, mentally, creatively and spiritually?

Flexibility, the ability to change, evolve, and adapt in the face of disaster.

  • What are your strategies for making it through tough days when the students are non-responsive, coworkers are unsympathetic and your kids are sick with colds?
  • Have you looked at different scenarios for engaging life in difficult times and planning for the tough days?

Limited or “safe” failure, which prevents failures from rippling across systems.

  • Are you kind to yourself or do you beat yourself up for failures?
  • Or, are you too easy on yourself, never learning from mistakes?
  • Can you strive for balance – giving yourself permission to fail but also the courage to learn and grow from the mistakes?

Rapid rebound, the capacity to re-establish function and avoid long-term disruptions.

  • When your life, career and family are disrupted, do you shut down?
  • Or, do you give yourself some recovery time and then try again?
  • Do you have structures of support – friends, family, exercise, journaling, meditation, prayer, cooking, etc. to assist your rapid rebound?

Constant learning, with robust feedback loops that sense and allow new solutions as conditions change.

  • Do you fill your mind with bright, positive and invigorating ideas?
  • Do you have a circle of colleagues and friends who positively challenge you and who are completely yet tactfully honest with you?
  • Do you learn as much from your students as they learn from you?

Answer these questions in your journal and become a Warrior Artist!

About the Author

Rob Levit, an acclaimed musician and artist and 2013 Innovator of the Year from the Maryland Daily Record, has created award-winning innovative "Life-Skills Through The Arts" programs for adults with mental illness, the homeless, adults in drug and alcohol recovery, youth in domestic/sexual abuse counseling, foster children, hospital patients, veterans and many more. He is currently Executive Director of Creating Communities and was the first Artist-In-Residence at Hospice of the Chesapeake, where he created and infused healing activities for the well-being of staff, families and patients. Email Rob.