Resilient They Stand: Fostering Resilient Learners

What does the word “resilient” mean to you? In what context would you use it day-to-day, if ever? In students, resilient means that these students overcome sometimes extreme adversity, often revolving around trauma in their lives. These students wake up every day, not always in a safe place, and come to school.

Every teacher will have these students, and it is our job to make sure that their needs are getting met to the best of our abilities. Give them a safe space to just be. That is what could make or break a student.

Image result for safe space

What is Trauma?

In Fostering Resilient Learners by Krisitin Souers and Pete Hall, trauma is described as, “an exceptional experience in which powerful and dangerous events overwhelm a person’s capacity to cope” (p. 15). This could be anything in that student’s life that has had some sort of profound effect on them, to the point where it is hard for them to focus on anything else. As teachers, we will undoubtedly encounter many students who have faced some sort of trauma, and we have to be prepared to teach them to their full potential.Image result for ACEs

Quantifying Trauma Through ACEs

Souers and Hall describe in their book one way that trauma is often quantified, and that is through an ACEs score. ACEs, or adverse childhood experiences, is a way to “score” students to determine their level of trauma. These are the things that fall under an ACEs score:

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

And as Souers notes, this list is not all-encompassing (p. 17). However, this is a way of quantifying the amount of trauma a student has been through, with a higher score equating to more trauma.Image result for what can we do

What Can We Do?

As the teacher, we are responsible for the well-being of our students while they are within our classrooms. Often, this is done through mindfulness and good classroom relationships. However, it is inevitable that we will become tired. After all, giving 110% every day is literally impossible. So, in order to better help our students, we need to be able to help ourselves as well. Souers and Hall describe the Self Care Challenge (p. 192). These are what they believe to be the top four ways to make sure that you avoid burnout and are able to help your students to the best of your abilities by keeping yourself in mind:

  • Health

They recommend exercise, whether it be swimming, running, biking, or whatever. Just Keep Moving

  • Love

Take care of yourself, and do something nice just because you want to every once in a while. It’s hard to enjoy life when you grind yourself to the bone day in and day out.

  • Competence

Challenge yourself. Get out of your comfort zone. Do something scary to you.

  • Gratitude

Be thankful for the things that happen to you. Every day, write down something that you’re thankful for, whether it be a friend or an experience.


  1. Bryce,

    I adore your post, it was well thought out. I loved your “What Can We Do?” section because it is so true! What can we do as teachers? We also need to help ourselves. Health, love competence, and gratitude. These are all essential to helping ourselves. And we can do the same thing for our students as well. Because they need to help themselves as well. What can you recommend for you students to do when they are struggling with their own problems?


    • Thanks, Michael! For students, it really falls under the same four categories of taking care of yourself. It can sometimes be hard for students who may not be in positions to treat themselves often, or ever. In cases like that, it may fall to doing smaller things that make you happy, or finding gratitude for the small things. That last one can also sometimes be hard, as it is hard to find gratitude when the world is weighing you down. However, students should take care of themselves every bit as much as teachers should!

  2. Hi Bryce!
    I really liked your blog post! I like how you organized your blog by starting with what trauma could stem from in students and explaining ACEs scores. What I found interesting was how you described what teachers could do for themselves! I think all those points could help teachers when they become burnt out so they can bounce back for the students. With that said, what do you think teachers could do for students that have faced trauma?
    Great post!

    • Hi Kacey! I think teachers need to be able to respond to students in a way that does not escalate situations! Realizing that these students have gone through a lot is something that needs to happen before we can properly do our job.

  3. Bryce, you rocked this blog post. I am so glad to see you mention the idea that working with traumatized students is HARD. As much as we are going to love our jobs and our students, it is not going to be a breeze at all. We are going to need to be flexible, strong, and smart about every single decision we make with ACEs students to benefit them as much as we possibly can. It is very possible that we may focus so much on the students, we may forget to take care of ourselves; which you described as “burn-out.” This couldn’t be more true. With the busy schedules we will have, what do you think are some quick methods of self care? What are some things that take little to no time that could make all of the difference in our mental health with topics such as these?

    • Quick methods of self-care could be taking a break from grading to watch your favorite show, doing a skincare routine, or eating that chocolate bar that’s been sat in your desk for a week! Anything that makes you happy will make you less likely to burn out and more likely to be at your best when you need to be!

  4. Bryce, this was a very interesting and informational blog post! I loved all of the images that you used throughout this post. The video is also spot on as well. I really enjoyed the what you can do section it provides plenty of information. I also enjoyed the title that you gave this post. Would you recommend this book to people in professions other than teaching and if so what professions? Great post!

    • Hi Bailey! I would 100% recommend this to other professions, especially if they are in positions that work with those who face trauma. These could be anything from doctors to paraprofessionals to therapists.

  5. Bryce,
    I really enjoyed reading your blog! Your images really pulled it all together. When you said, “give them a safe space to just be” and about how that could make or break a student, that is so true. For some students, school really is their only opportunity to “just be.” I also like how you mentioned what us teachers can do to help ourselves. Out of the things you mentioned, what do you think you would do to help yourself? Realistically, how much time do we have to spend on ourselves? I also really enjoyed the TED talk you included! Great work!

    • Hi Katie! Realistically, we have little time to spend on ourselves, but in that time we could do a plethora of things! Something as easy as eating your favorite chocolate is self-care!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.