Nearly 40% of students in the US have been exposed to some sort of traumatic event.
This is troubling because when children are exposed to complex or acute drama the brain shifts its operation from development to stress response, which can have lasting repercussions. Toxic stress can damage the architecture of the developing brain, leading to disrupted circuits and a weakened foundation for future learning and health (pg. 21 of Fostering Resilient Learners)
How will we know if a student is experiencing trauma?
Students dealing with trauma respond to their situations often with fight, flight, or freeze actions (pg. 29 in Fostering Resilient Learners) The diagram below shows examples of what this may look like.
As teachers, we need to help these kids by fostering resilience.
What does this mean? Why is it important?
Resilience: the process of handling stress and recovering from trauma or adversity
Resilient people are able to utilize their skills and strengths to cope and recover from problems and challenges. They understand that setbacks happen and that sometimes life is hard and painful. They still experience the emotional pain, grief, and sense of loss that comes after a tragedy, but their mental outlook allows them to work through such feelings and recover. Resilience gives people the power to tackle problems head on.
Ways to foster resilience in the classroom
- Cool Down: Create a cool down corner with pillows, or soft music. Kids can go to this corner when they become upset
- Create Connection: Do peer mentoring activities where students get paired up, and share something they know, a hobby, a favorite show they are watching, etc. This will allow relationships to be built which is key to resilience.
- Encourage Progress: Have students set goals or set class goals. Setting and achieving different goals allows students to see the results of their hard work.
Souers, K., & Hall, P. A. (2016). Fostering resilient learners: strategies for creating a trauma-sensitive classroom. Moorabbin, Victoria: Hawker Brownlow Education.