My turn

Resiliency helps us cope with academic pressures and loss

2013-11-03T00:00:00Z Resiliency helps us cope with academic pressures and lossBy Bill Vargo Times Columnist
November 03, 2013 12:00 am  • 

I have been holding two presumably opposite concepts in my head for the last week.

The first concept is about the end of the first marking period in school. On the one hand, we have Sam, my youngest son, who is starting to come into his own after a year of struggling with certain academic concepts. Where last year he dreaded math, he now makes his way confidently through the material.

Our oldest, Matthew, has transitioned into high school and all its adjustments. After a rough start, the road has gotten smoother for a couple of reasons.

He has adjusted to the schedule, but more importantly, he now realizes the level of expectation from middle school to high school is such that memorizing material is no longer a major advantage.

All of this brings me to a lesson that I learned as a freshman at Purdue University Calumet (clearly I was a little behind).

The lesson came courtesy of Professor Lance Trusty in the History Department and Charlie Tinkham in the English Department some 30 years ago. Tinkham taught me that you had to set aside the letter grade expectation in order to understand and apply the material.

Aspiring writers will be heartened to learn that getting a C+ in entry level composition doesn’t mean that you can never write again. Trusty taught all of us in that U.S. History class that memorizing historical facts (quick, who was Lincoln’s first vice president?) doesn’t mean that you understand the material. History is so much more than that, but anyway, Lincoln’s first vice president was Hannibal Hamlin.

Over the years, I have written a number of columns about people suffering a loss. Having been through that while in high school, it is an idea that I hold in my mind all the time.

This week, The Wounded Healers welcomes the public at 7 p.m. Wednesday at St. James Church, 9640 Kennedy Ave., Highland. The subject is "The Search for Inner Strength" with speaker Dr. Samantha Francis.

For 25 years, this wonderful group has helped those left behind deal with their loss. There are support groups for those that have lost a child or a grandchild, those who mourn a spouse or parent, and those working through a suicide loss.

The human body and soul can endure an incredible amount. The ways in which we bounce back speaks to the resilience of the human spirit.

The two ideas in my mind for this last week are intertwined by this very concept of resiliency. Children learn to adjust to failure, in whatever form it takes. We don’t always get an A, but maybe we are better off not worrying about that. Children and adults are also resilient when it comes to loss.

There will be grieving, as there should be. We remember those whom we lost. As we get older, that group will grow, but groups like The Wounded Healers recognize that we have to find a way to move on lest we add to the grief of others.

It is through companionship and mentoring that we overcome obstacles, whether the transition to high school or the loss of someone dear to us. In the end, we are stronger than we might give ourselves credit for.

The opinions are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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