Building Resiliency Through Trauma-Informed Teaching

I would argue that there is not a single teacher who has not worked with a student with trauma, but how many of us are aware of how to handle trauma responses in a positive manner that helps foster resiliency in our students? Trauma events in youth can and do occur in all environments, all socio-economic levels, and in all shapes. The natural question then is how do we as educators handle trauma events and trauma responses in our students to help mitigate the negative long-lasting impacts? How to respond comes in two main parts; how we handle ourselves and how we handle our students.

“Our Capacity to acknowledge and attend to personal difficulties while still working toward expectations is often defined as resilience”

– Fostering resilient Learners, Kristin Souers

Helping Ourselves

  • Self-Awareness: As teachers, we must learn to be aware of our own thoughts and reactions to trauma responses. If we first learn to press pause and gain awareness for not just the situation at hand but for our personal response, we can become better at knowing how to help ourselves help our students. “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom”(40).
  • Relationships: The bonds we form with our students are strong, but they can either be positive or negative depending on how we as teachers work to build relationships. As educators, when we experience a shift in a relationship with our students, one of the best things we can do is take the time to reflect on what happened and how our assumptions and labels of our students can impact the relationships we foster.
  • Belief: It can be so easy to become hopeless over a situation in which we feel we have so little control. Instead of focusing on what we can’t do, we must focus on what we can do. We must walk into class every day believing that the time we have with our students can and does make a difference.

Helping Our Students

  • “Regardless of how our trauma has affected us, we get to choose whether we will allow it to damage us forever” (139): As teachers, we can demonstrate to our students that they are in control. This is easier said than done because knowing you have control is something that must be learned and practiced. Leading our students through breathing techniques, or taking the time to help them identify why they are experiencing the reactions they are can help them learn to take control of their trauma.
  • Shift Focus: Students in trauma response are using their “downstairs” fight or flight brain. They are unable to fully process and think through their decision-making at the moment. Practice working to shift your student’s focus to help them redirect their energy into something positive. This can look like letting them take a moment away, listening to some music, coloring, etc. Help them identify what helps them shift their focus and get out of the downstairs brain pattern.


  1. Hey Melinda! I really liked seeing your view on Fostering Resilient Learners, as well as the ways you think we could help our students become resilient learners themselves. Specifically, I like how you mentioned the importance of building relationships with our students. When we are able to show them a more humane side of us as teachers, they will reciprocate and appreciate that relationship. I was wondering if you had any strategies on how you are planning on building those types of classroom relationships? Thanks!

    • Hi Maddie, thank you for your response and question. I would say that the biggest part of building classroom relationships is taking the time to get to know my students personally. I think that taking the first day of school and parts of the day throughout the school year to spend time talking with my students about their interests is an incredibly important thing to do and worth the time taken.

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