How to Foster Resilient Learners in the Classroom

On page 7 of the book Fostering Resilient Learners, the author mentions the responsibility of a teacher “to educate every single child who enters our schoolhouses”.

That does not just mean that we provide them the educational resources to do so, but also to create a trauma-sensitive learning environment. In her book, Kristin gives the fundamental truths about trauma (page 10).

Fundamental Truths about Trauma:
1. Trauma is real.
2. Trauma is prevalent, much more than we care to admit.
3. Trauma is toxic to the brain and can affect development and learning in a multitude of ways.
4. We have to support students who have experienced trauma, even if we may not know who they are.
5. Children are resilient and can grow, learn, and succeed within positive learning environments.

Understanding Trauma

It is important for us to remember that trauma focuses on the impact of the events, rather than the details of the event itself. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) can come in different forms such as abuse, parental divorce, domestic violence, death of a family member, etc. It will have long-lasting impacts on the student, not just mentally but also physically.

“Trauma exposure is toxic to the body and the brain (page 19)”. When students undergo stress from trauma, they will not be in the learning mode and simply would not be able to learn. They will enter survival mode and this can manifest into adverse behaviors in the classroom: avoidant, disruptive, or disengaged (Flight, Fight, or Freeze).

When students act out, it is important for us to not keep an “adult-centered and deficit-focused” perspective, but rather a “student-centered and strength-focused” perspective. We should let the students realize that trauma is just an event, and will not define the person they are. They may be forever changed, but not forever damaged.

Fostering Resiliency in Students

This video gives an idea of how we can get started with trauma-informed practices in our classrooms:

We have to help students to become resilient learners, allowing them to learn how to handle stress, understand that setbacks can happen, and to give them the power to tackle those problems.

Some ways to foster resilience in the classroom is to:

  • Be consistent and reliable to create a safe, healthy relationship with students
  • Allow students to realize that the school is always a safe place
  • Remain logical and regulated in times of stress (BREATHE!)
  • Be self-aware of own triggers
  • Self-care is important! Stressed brains can’t teach, nor learn.
  • Make sure to communicate effectively in times of crisis/ conflict:
    • LISTEN: Listen deeply, and pause to breathe
    • REASSURE: Let them know you respect their perspective
    • VALIDATE: Validate their emotions
    • RESPOND: Explain what has occurred
    • REPAIR: Apologize for whatever role you may have played in the miscommunication
    • RESOLVE: Collaborate to find ways to prevent future reoccurrence

Remember that it is NEVER about you! We have to make sure that “everything we say to and do with our students and families must be done solely for their benefit, not our own” (page 76). Our job is to empower students to problem-solve on their own, not to solve their problems.

Souers, K., & Hall, P. A. (2016). Fostering resilient learners: strategies for creating a trauma-sensitive classroom. Moorabbin, Victoria: Hawker Brownlow Education.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Woojin!
    This post is amazing! You make some great points about how trauma can be seen in the classroom and how to deal with students reacting to trauma in different ways. I also really like how you mention that not everything is about you and that you can’t take a students actions personally, they have things going on that you don’t know about. Do you have any advice on who to deal with this when a student has been acting out for a while and it’s starting to get to you? thanks!

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