The Journey Towards Resilience

In Kristen Souers and Pete Halls book Fostering Resilient Learners, the impact of trauma and negative experiences is investigated through an educational lens to determine its harsh impacts on students as they go through their schooling experience. Throughout the book, we see how trauma can manifest itself in a variety of ways and strategies teachers can use to help students the most in the classroom.

Trauma in the Classroom

As a teacher, it is so important to understand that you will have students who enter your classroom who have experienced trauma. This trauma may look different for every student and the impacts of the trauma may also look different for every student.

Some of the most devastating traumatic events that happen to students in their youth (or adverse childhood experiences) include physical, sexual, emotional abuse, split of a family, or loss of a loved one. To put some of these experiences in perspective, the following video provides some perspective on mental pain according to the Orbach & Mikulincer Mental Pain Scale (OMMP).

The Consequences of Trauma

It is likely that we will have students who have experienced some or many of these events and this can have a detrimental impact on their readiness to learn. In fact, the following chart gives quantitative evidence of how adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can impact a student’s attendance, behavior, coursework, and overall health.

In addition to this, there are many aspects of a student’s behavior and appearance, as described in Fostering Resilient Learners, that may be affected by their experiences with trauma. Some of these include:

  • unexplained aggression
  • irrational overreactions
  • negative and/or static mindset
  • isolation or withdrawal from social/academic situations
  • obesity/anorexia (indicating an unhealthy dependency on food)
  • constant fatigue
  • substance abuse

Ways for Building Resilience in Students

We may not be able to stop the trauma from happening, but we can give students the skills and strategies to manage the intensity through intentional teaching in a safe, predictable environment.

Souers and Hall, 2016, p.34

We are not born resilient and resilience is not a genetic trait (Souers and Hall, p. 154). We are made resilient by the cards that life deals us and the experiences we have.

While adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can certainly impact students for many years, there are ways that teachers can help students to build resilience and overcome or have acceptance of their pasts. The following list describes some of the ways teachers can help students with (and without!) ACEs.

  • BOOST students’ self-esteem through recognition of achievement, effort, or determination
  • CONNECT with students over shared experiences to help build social skills and mutual respect
  • GIVE choices to students regarding what they want to learn or how they what to learn
  • LEND perspective to students on the significance/insignificance of setbacks in their lives
  • ALLOW students to make mistakes! These could turn into great moments of growth
  • ACCEPT your students no matter what they come into the classroom with
  • ENCOURAGE students to care for themselves as individuals and not just as learners


  1. Emilia,
    Great blog post! I loved the list at the end to help students with (and without) ACES…like you mentioned! I think that is in important point you brought up- that having a trauma-informed classroom reaches all students as well as our students who have/are dealing with trauma…even if they haven’t dealt with it, they might later on in life. Also just because I am super curious, I am interested in why you chose the picture of the purple flower? How does that image connect to fostering resilient learners for you? I have some ideas of my own, but would love to know why you chose it!

  2. Emilia, I enjoyed reading your post. I loved your discussion about helping students with and without ACES. I appreciated the fact that you mentioned that these strategies work for building connections and resiliency with all students. How would you introduce the concept of self care in your classroom? Would you incorporate it into a lesson plan? Or would you incorporate it into how you run the classroom and daily practices?

Leave a Reply

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