Fostering Resilient Learners

We all like to say, “you never know what someone could be going through” when referring to our own family or friends. Have you ever applied that thought to your classroom? To the student who doesn’t seem to be focused? Or the student that’s late to class every day? Or the student who seems to not even care?

It is our responsibility to make sure we check up on students to know what is going on inside and outside of the school walls that could be affecting their learning. Students could be or could have been experiencing things that are considered traumatic.

What is trauma?

Trauma in students can stem from:

  • Substance abuse in the house
  • Parental separation or divorce
  • Mental illness in the home
  • Witnessing domestic violence
  • Suicidal household member
  • Death of a parent or loved one
  • Parental incarceration
  • Experience of abuse or neglect

(Souers, 2016)

Any of these kinds of things could be affecting how a child is behaving in school and can distract them from their learning.

What can teachers do?

“These children aren’t seeking attention. They are looking for a safe and trustworthy relationship.” (Souers, 2016)

All students respond differently to trauma. It is our jobs to support and create a relationship with the student and go the extra mile.

What we can do to create those relationships and help your students:

  • Get to know your students; learn about their interests, their family, anything you think may be important in how you teach and interact with the students
  • Listen to your students, even if they don’t have much to say, listen to everything they do.
  • Create a judgement-free zone where students can be 100% themselves
  • Try not to say things like “I understand what you’re going through” because more than likely, you do not and shouldn’t belittle your students
  • Provide students with resources to things you think might help them in school and/or at home.
  • Remain calm, cool and collected at all times
  • Work with students one-on-one if they are falling behind or need extra help
  • Ultimately just be there for your students, simply asking how they are doing should suffice!

Our goal as teachers is to foster resilience in all our students!

In this TedTalk, Charles Hunt talks about resilience can be built from trauma:


“To be the change we wish to see in the world, we need to be aware of our awareness, to hold within this place of knowing our own unfolding sense of being awake.” – Dan Siegel



  1. Kacey,

    I think your post is absolutely flawless! My favorite part is your quote at the end… because we do need to be aware of our awareness. It is our job to know these issues and acknowledge them. I also appreciate your advice on how to foster these relationships with students because that’s important to helping our students. What will you do as a teacher to help your students in time of need? We will all approach these problems differently, I want to know what you would systematically do.


    • Michael,
      Thank you! I will be sure to create a relationship with my students but also keep an open door policy to allow students to come be if they need a safe space. I want my students to know I support them and by having an open atmosphere, the students will be able to feel free of stress in a safe place.

  2. Kacey, this was a very informational blog post. I loved the picture with the scissors and the meaning behind it. Overall this blog flowed really well from start to finish. I also loved the ted talk that you included in this post. I liked the quote from Dan Siegel as well! What do you think is the most important thing that a teacher can do to help foster resilience in the classroom? Overall this was a great post!

    • Bailey,
      Thank you! I think the most important thing we can do is build a relationship with our students. This will make them more comfortable and lets them know that you see what’s going and genuinely care for them. Once a relationship is established, a teacher can start building in more things like content or other interests they might have.

  3. Hello Kacey,
    Awesome post! I like your suggestions. They really align with mine. Dan Siegel is also one of my favorite authors. He writes a lot of psychology books. I love the quote. If that could be my mission statement as a teacher, I would definately adopt that. The specific suggestions that I like that you wrote were asking your students how they are doing each day, trying not to belittle them by telling them that you know what it is like, and also remaining calm. I think all of these suggestion are great and I have used a couple of these in my work with high schoolers and IEP students. a little goes a long way! I agree with not being judgemental as well. There were many teacher that help me as a child and none of them were judgemental. That is the teacher I want to be. Many of your suggestions are similar to what I wrote on my blog. I want to ask you, would you ever consider creating a “safe space” for students or allowing them to have pillows, silly putty, or other soothing items in the classroom? I used to use these things for myself and they helped tremendously. The other question that I have is how you would handle a suicidal student. This is a big problem in students today. It can be scary, but as a teacher, we need to try to help.

    • Delaina,
      Thank you! I think that with regards to a suicidal student, it all goes back to how you treat them and make sure they know they’re appreciated. Making a relationship with them is the most important step. Also, I think having a safe space is important so students can relax and just be themselves without having to worry about their other problems. But the relationship building is the first step to helping students at all.

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