Onward Book Summary - Onward Book explained in key points
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Onward summary

Elena Aguilar

Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators

4.3 (35 ratings)
20 mins

Brief summary

Onward by Elena Aguilar provides a guide for educators to cultivate resilience, mindfulness, and connection as part of their own personal and professional development. The book offers practical tips and exercises to help educators stay motivated and inspired in their work.

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    Understanding the cycle of emotions is key to building resilience. 

    As a new teacher, Aguilar used to believe that she was far too busy to deal with her emotions. Whenever she felt sad or angry, she swallowed her feelings and soldiered on. But now, as an experienced educator, she understands that exploring and accepting emotions is a crucial step toward building resilience. 

    Think about the last time that you experienced a powerful emotion. How would you categorize that feeling? Was it a thought, an experience or merely an impulse? According to the author, it was all of these things. Each emotion you experience, she believes, is actually a series of events and reactions that together form a six-part cycle. 

    Let’s take a look at how an emotional cycle might play out. 

    Each cycle starts with a prompting event. This is something that happens in your external environment. If you’re a teacher, for example, this event could be a fire drill that interrupts your lesson. The next stage in the cycle is interpretation, where you mentally explain the event using your pre-existing assumptions and beliefs. You might interpret that fire drill, for example, as proof of your principal’s blatant disrespect for your teaching time. 

    This interpretation leads to a physical response – just thinking about your principal’s disrespect causes your body to release stress hormones, making your heart beat faster. Almost immediately, you feel an urge to act – perhaps you start thinking of all the furious things you’re going to write your principal in an email. 

    This impulse is swiftly followed by action – as you lead your class outside, you might give your principal an angry look. After school, maybe you fire off that furious email. Finally, you feel the aftereffects of your emotion – the ways in which this emotion influences your other thoughts and emotions. Your anger toward your principal, for example, could trigger feelings of physical exhaustion. 

    Understanding this cycle enables you to intervene, shifting the way you experience the emotion and creating a better outcome. You can intervene at any point in the cycle. When you begin interpreting the principal’s actions as disrespectful, for instance, you can catch yourself in this negative assumption, and put a different spin on things. If you feel your heart rate soaring, you can recognize this response, and change it by taking some deep breaths to relax instead. 

    Understanding her own emotional cycles has given Aguilar more energy at work and improved her ability to handle interpersonal conflict. Today, she’s never too busy to explore her emotions.

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    What is Onward about?

    Onward (2018) explains how educators can cope better with adversity so that they and their students can thrive in the classroom. Filled with rich insights from author Elena Aguilar’s experiences as an educator, these blinks also explore mindfulness and change-management techniques.

    Onward Review

    Onward (2020) is a thought-provoking exploration of how we can thrive in challenging times and continue growing as educators. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It provides practical strategies for fostering resilience and maintaining a positive mindset in the face of adversity.
    • The book offers insights on how to nurture relationships with colleagues, students, and ourselves, reminding us of the power of connection and well-being.
    • With its compelling stories and thoughtful reflections, the book ensures that we never lose sight of the human element in education, making it an engaging read.

    Best quote from Onward

    In the words of George Bernard Shaw, we dont stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.

    —Elena Aguilar
    example alt text

    Who should read Onward?

    • New teachers struggling to cope
    • Experienced educators seeking fresh insights
    • Psychology buffs wanting a new angle

    About the Author

    Elena Aguilar has over 25 years of experience as a teacher and instructional coach. As the founder and president of the educational consultancy group Bright Morning, Aguilar has partnered with public and private organizations to train thousands of educators, both in the United States and internationally. She is also the author of four acclaimed books, including The Art of Coaching (2013) and The Art of Coaching Teams (2016). 

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    Onward FAQs 

    What is the main message of Onward?

    The main message of Onward is that we can navigate challenges and maintain a sense of purpose by tapping into our inner strength and resilience.

    How long does it take to read Onward?

    The reading time for Onward varies depending on the reader's speed. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Onward a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Onward is a compelling read that offers valuable insights and strategies to overcome obstacles. It's definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of Onward?

    Elena Aguilar is the author of Onward.

    What to read after Onward?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Onward, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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