A Note to the Teacher: Fostering Resilient Learners

When thinking of how to foster resilient learning in our students, we must first understand that many children have experienced different trauma-related events. These events are referred to as Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs. Student learning is heavily impacted by ACEs. It is our responsibility as educators to help our students be more resilient as science learners.

Three Classifications of ACEs:


The three classifications of ACEs are abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction. These are not-OK events that have an extreme impact on student learning and overall health (Souers). There are ten total types of ACEs that are often examined independently or collectively based on the number that a child has experienced (0 being no experience with ACEs and 10 being experienced all 10 ACEs).

So, how do we help our students become more resilient as science learners?

  • Create a trauma-sensitive learning environment
  • Increase our awareness of ACEs that students may experience
  • Recognize and respond to students who have ACEs so that we can help them feel safe again
  • Each student will bring their own ACEs into the classroom, but it is our responsibility as their teacher to not be fixated on the actual ACE and instead focus on how you can best help them

It is important for our students to become resilient science learners because they are still growing at the high school level. We have more of an impact on their lives than we understand. When we help our students become resilient learners, we are helping them become successful members of society. They will leave our classroom with a better understanding of how to be independent in life and make their own decisions.

“Stressed brains can’t teach, and stressed brains can’t learn.”

– Natalie Turner

How do you recognize trauma?


1 – Students who have endured a lot of trauma may choose to separate themselves when certain triggers are seen. This could look like storming out of the room or withdrawing themselves from a conversation.
2 – They may also choose to act out in the classroom or argue with other students. This could look like back-talking or interrupting a lesson.
3 – They may also go numb. This could look like refusing to answer or giving a blank look.

Trauma in the Classroom


The following video discusses how to build hope and resilience in a child.

The Building Of Hope And Resilience In A Child | Michael Kalous | TEDxHelena
  • Be a hero – love them, accept them, guide them, teach them
  • Offer them a place of refuge – the classroom should be a safe place for them
  • Give them a voice – listen to them


Understanding “Upstairs” & “Downstairs” Brains

  • When an individual is in their “upstairs” brain, productive conversations can happen. Our goal should be to always be in our “upstairs” brain and to help those who are trauma-impacted to be as well.
  • When an individual is in their “downstairs” brain, they are in survival mode. As future educators, we should help our students find ways to overcome this mode and get back to their “upstairs” brains.

Always Wear Your Cement Shoes

Stay true to yourself, even when you want to explode. At the beginning of the school year, write down your motto or belief for your classroom and how you expect to be as a teacher. This will act as a constant reminder of who you are and what your classroom should look like. If you are ever faced with a situation where a student is obviously upset and the situation is escalating, remember your motto.


…Also Remember to Breathe, It’s Not About You

When a student is acting out in class and yelling at you, remember to breathe. Odds are, there is a source of their anger, and it is not you. Do not take what the student says personally. Instead, you should focus on how to address the battle that this particular student is fighting and help them overcome it. You should not jump to the idea of sending them to the office, but instead, ask to chat over lunch and make sure they know you are there for them. Let them know that it is okay to not be okay. Be sure to never partake in a power struggle.


Links to other blogs (resources for other teachers to use to foster resiliency):

  • https://www.fosteringresilientlearners.org/blog/2020/2/12/what-is-a-culture-of-safety
  • https://mariventurino.com/2019/05/13/fostering-resilient-learners-strategies-for-creating-a-trauma-sensitive-classroom/
  • https://thetraumainformedteacher.com/blog-posts/page/2/

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


  1. Hi Brooklyn,
    It was great to read your post on resilient learners – very informative with useful information for both pre-service and in-service teachers on the trauma students to experience and how to help them to be resilient. In particular, I liked your point about cement shoes as a way of keeing yourself grounded in who you are as a person and teacher. Based on this idea, what are some of your “cement shoes” that will help you stay true to yourself during the stressful moments in teaching? (This can be aspects of your personal motto or mission statement, destressing techniques, or other related things)

    • Hi Lauren! Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post. One example of “cement shoes” that I will wear one day as a future teacher will relate to student misbehavior. My mission statement will be – “Take a deep breath and breathe. They (the student) are acting out for a particular reason. That reason probably is not me. Let’s figure out where the friction lies and overcome it together.”

  2. Brooklyn, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post. I loved the different images that you chose! In particular I think that the diagram of categories/types of ACEs and the “upstairs” and “downstairs” brain image was incredibly powerful and clearly demonstrate these two things.
    I also enjoyed your conversation about breathing. This technique is simple, yet effective! Have you thought about how you will integrate this as a common practice in your classroom? Will you discuss the concept of breathing with your students, and if so, how?

    • Colleen, Thank you for your kind words! I am glad you loved the images. I believe images are a very powerful supplement to written content. I plan on integrating breathing in my future classroom as part of a meditation segment at the beginning of class. I will first discuss the importance of breathing and a brief chat on the biology/chemistry connection then continue on to a 2-minute breathing/mediation period.

Leave a Reply

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