How YOU Can Foster Resilient Learners in Your Classroom?

In the book, “Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a trauma-Sensitive Classroom,” by Kristen Souers and Pete Hall, is all about a growing issue– childhood trauma, and the effects that is has on both learning and teaching. Souers and Hall write on teaching educators, much like yourself, to create a trauma-centered learning environment for your students!

Fostering Resilient Learners

Understanding What Trauma Is and How It Hinders Learning

Childhood trauma is something that happens a lot more than most of us even realize. Something that happens so frequently, that two thirds of children can identify at least one traumatic experience they’ve had before the age of 16. According to Understanding Child Trauma, some reasons for trauma may include:

  • Mental or physical abuse
  • Community or school violence
  • Witnessing or experiencing domestic violence
  • Sudden loss of a loved one
  • Refugee or war experience
  • Military related
  • Neglect
  • Serious accident or life-threatening illness

More than likely, many of these reasons on this list aren’t always taken into consideration when we hear the phrase, “childhood trauma.” But how do all of these reasons for trauma hinder our students learning? In a study done by Helping Traumatized Children Learn, it’s been shown that childhood traumatic experiences can diminish concentration, memory, and the organizational and language abilities that are needed for students to succeed in the classroom. Not only does it hinder learning, it also hinders classroom behavior as well. Typically children that experience trauma, think of school as a battleground. Many of the classroom behavioral problems, stem from the same issues that made the academic troubles.

Building Strong Relationships and Creating a Safe Learning Place

Building strong relationships with your students is so important. Strong relationships encourage positive learning environments, creates classroom community, and the greatest investment we can make with our students. Investing in our students means that we’re able to help them grow in and out of the classroom, we build trust, and make them feel loved– which are all components some of our may never feel at home. Some ways that we can create a safe learning place for our students is:

  • Transparency in the classroom– as a teacher, you’re still human! If you don’t know the answer to something, just be honest with your students.
  • Individually chat with your students– speaking with students as individuals is one of the greatest ways to start to build relationships.
  • Don’t put out students voices– allow your students to be heard; everyone wants to be seen and heard. Let them advocate for themselves and for others.

Every child deserves a champion– an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.

–Rita F. Pierson

How Can WE Help?

The video below, by the CDC, explains the effects of children with adverse childhood experiences (ACE) and how it plays a roll on health and well-being. This video helps us to understand, recognize, and prevent ACEs!

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Fostering Resilient students who THRIVE!

…”we must also celebrate the power of resilience. Many of us have found a way to survive the not-OK” (Souers & Hall, 2016 p. 23).

This quote is powerful because even though many of us have experienced trauma and (the “not-OK” things throughout life, this reminds us that we can still feel connected to one another through the resiliency brought about by various experiences. While students shouldn’t have to “pick theirselves up by their bootstraps,” their resiliency should be recognized- even if our students are not handing themselves within their upstairs brain, they too are quite resilient. How can we empower students to let them see it too?

How can educators foster resilient learners in the classroom?

  1. Love thyself <3: This is underrated, but a crucial starting point to implementing effective trauma informed teaching. To be able to have grace, patience, understanding, and compassion with our students, we must extend that same love to ourselves.
  • “Be true to you” (Souers & Hall, 2016 p. 45)
  • Get connected to your sense of self
  • Becoming grounded in your identity
  • Hone in on key aspects of yourself that can’t be taken away from you
  • Develop a personal mission statement that is reflected in your teaching practices

2. Make it known your classroom is a safe space: This is a message we should strive to deliver through our actions and by modeling. It really is not enough to verbally tell students that your classroom is a place where they are always welcome, we have to allow students to see that through our actions. Even a simple comment to a student recognizing their unique personal qualities and strengths, empathizing with their struggles, and letting them know you are happy that they are in your class can sometimes make all the difference to help influence calming and restoring the student’s state of mind. Teachers can also incorporate “safe spaces” within the classroom itself. These can be areas that have a variety of tools (bean bags, books, fidget toys, etc.) to help influence our students to regulate their behaviors in a productive way.

3. Knowing the learners in your classroom: So many ways to go about bettering our students lives in some way often times comes back to knowing your students. If we know our students personalities, tendencies, behaviors, and habits of mind, then we can be better equipped to be able to recognize when students are not being themselves. Even though we might not know why or what is causing these behaviors, we are there to witness the effects of them. When students are in their downstairs brain they are in fight, flight, or freeze mode. If we strive to stay connected with our students and their lives, then not only can we better hone in on their mental state of being, but we also can more more readily prepared to provide them with the proper tools and appropriate ways to influence them back into their regulatory state of control in their upstairs brain.

“As educators, we have an obligation to truly understand how students learn and what may be affecting their capacity to learn (Souers & Hall, 2016, p. 117).

https://twitter.com/sciriii/status/1387588033332105219?s=21

Why is this important?

  1. By becoming more aware of the complexity of trauma and how it manifests- It is important that we infuse language that speaks against the stereotypes that associates trauma and failure at school or in other areas of life. We should be careful of the language we use as it relates to these topics because we don’t want to further perpetuate the negative stigmas attached with mental health and trauma. It is important to recognize these aspects so we can have discussions around these topics in a productive manner that allows students to feel considered and ultimately safe.
  2. It is important to infuse a trauma-sensitive pedagogy into the classroom because: “Even if you don’t believe your efforts are reaping much a result, keep in mind that you are planting seeds(Souers & Hall, 2016 p. 131). Our efforts can still have an impact on student’s lives down the road even if we don’t see an impact in the ‘now’. This should give us hope and motivation to stay consistent with these strategies that come from us staying grounded in our cement blocks.
  3. It is important to also recognize as our students as their person first and foremost, and not let their story overshadow who they are. Students are more than their traumatic experience and are not defined by it.

Other blogs to check out:

  • https://thetraumainformedteacher.com/the-impact-of-trauma-on-disabilities/
  • https://studentbehaviorblog.org/category/topic/social-emotional-and-behavioral-challenges/trauma/
  • https://insightstobehavior.com/blog/trauma-informed-classroom-creating-trauma-sensitive-classroom/
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Fostering Resilience in the Science Classroom

According to Souers and Hall, resiliency in the classroom is defined as the building of strong relationships and creation of a safe classroom environment to help students learn at higher levels. Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma Sensitive Classroom provides all teachers a guide to help develop their classrooms into safe and resilient environment! The writers outline different categories where which we can develop strategies in these areas to help teachers and students to be more resilient in the classroom. In this blog post, I will outline some of these categories Souers and Hall introduced, and give examples of how I plan to implement some of these strategies in my future classroom!

Trauma

In this section, the writers describe what trauma looks like in the classroom and what ways are the best to respond to trauma that our students may face. It is important that teachers know the signs of trauma that students can exhibit and have a plan to support students in the ways specific to each students’ needs. Souers and Hall state, “Trauma is bigger than just a mental health issue, it’s everyone’s issue” (pg. 11). This quote from the book is a great representation of the mindset that teachers should have when considering trauma that their students have faced. The writers also describe ACEs, or “adverse childhood experiences” and five truths that teachers need to consider in order to make a plan to support their students with the impact of the events NOT the nature of it:

  1. Trauma is Real
  2. Trauma is Prevalent. Much more common than many people care to admit
  3. Trauma is toxic to the brain and can affect development and learning.
  4. Students must be supported with or without trauma.
  5. Children are resilient and can grow, learn, and succeed in a positive learning environment

Application to the Science Classroom

In my future classroom, I plan to use these five truths as a guideline to consider when I find a student might be exhibiting behavior that suggests they are dealing with trauma. It is important to be informed and prepared to support students. When potential controversial topics are discussed in class, such as evolution or climate change in a biology setting, this could be a triggering conversation where students with trauma might respond in a negative way; as the writers put it, they might enter the “downstairs” portion of their brain. It is up to us to be prepared and help our students re-enter the “upstairs” brain with support and calming tactics when our students become triggered or exhibit trauma-based behaviors.

A great resource to use when one of our students are exhibiting stressed behaviors is to show them this mindfulness video from GoNoodle. GoNoodle is a fantastic resource that is trusted by many when attempting to alleviate stress and anxiety in the classroom!

Self-Awareness

Another very important idea discussed in the book was self-awareness and how it is necessary to have for both students and teachers in the classroom. “Demeanor, approach, behaviors, volume, and presence affect how young people live, breathe, and perform in the classroom” (pg. 41). it is important that as teachers, we are able to help our students gain composure, while being composed ourselves. Teachers must be able to anticipate certain behaviors in order to eradicate them. Souers and Hall say, “if it’s predictable, it’s preventable.” The writers outline a 6-step action plan when helping our students to gain composure and become self-aware:

  1. Listen
  2. Reassure
  3. Validate
  4. Respond
  5. Repair
  6. Resolve

By following these simple six steps, we can help our students to gain composure and become self-aware of their behavior all the while staying composed ourselves.

https://twitter.com/laurenvscience/status/1387594621090504707
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Trauma in the Class, What Do We Do?

What is Trauma?

Trauma is pervasive in the high school setting. It’s pervasive everywhere, but it can be very prevalent in a high school classroom. However, it can be hard to catch and even harder to handle when a student’s trauma manifests during class. Trauma is when a dangerous or threatening event is too overwhelming for a person to cope (Souers & Hall).

People react to their trauma triggers in three different ways usually: fight, flight and freeze. Fight is when a person becomes very aggression, often resulting in violences or yelling. When people’s flight reaction takes over they do anything they can to get out of or avoid the situation that is triggering them. Freeze is just what it sounds like, the person tenses up unable to do anything or react in other ways.

Trauma is often based in childhood experiences. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are these moments that children find themselves unable to cope which leave them traumatized in their future. People who have more ACEs are more likely to end up with trauma later in life, though this is not always 100% true.

How do we see trauma manifest itself in the classroom?

There are many ways you can see trauma manifest itself in class, however, they typically fall into those three main categories we discussed earlier: fight, flight and freeze. Some more common manifestations of trauma are what Souers and Hall refer to as “tornadoes.” This is when a student gets very angry, starts yelling, maybe throws something, maybe storms out of the room. Other ways you can see it in a classroom is if a student becomes abnormally quiet for themselves, or their grades drop, or they stop engaging with classmates.

Here’s a great video all about trauma in school!

How Can We Help?

The first step in helping students with trauma is realizing that their “story” is not important. As educators, we often won’t ever know the trauma that our students have undergone, and that’s ok. Oftentimes, when we know a students “story” we’re never able to see them as more than just their story. It’s better to “monitor the effect of the event on the each individual, not to preoccupy [oneself] with the details of the event itself” (Souers & Hall).

The second step is understanding that each student is different. Their triggers and the way they react to them will be unique to that individual so there is no one size fits all in helping deal with trauma (like all of education).

There are lots of other great ways of helping students handle their trauma when in the classroom. One of my favorite is focusing on a students biology. In Fostering Resilient Learners, Souers and Hall discuss a students upstairs and downstairs brain. The upstairs brain focuses on reason and critical thinking, while the downstairs brain is all about emotion and fight, flight and freeze response. The downstairs brain is where trauma reigns. However, when feeling triggered, “it is helpful for students to be able to identify feelings, name the function of the brain, and attune to their biology” (Souers & Hall).

What if a “tornado” is touching down in your classroom? The first thing suggested by Souers and Hall is to avoid getting wrapped up in that tornado. Make sure to keep yourself in check at all times, never allow your own emotional response to take over. If a student is having a violent reaction in class, make sure that all other students are safe, this might mean evacuating everyone from the room. Try to get the student to calm down by taking deep breaths with them. It’s important not to patronize the student or tell them what to do directly. Instead, try to work with them, get to the core of the issue. Maybe try asking them what it is they are upset about and how you can help.

Trauma is very common across the country, the likelihood of having students with trauma in your class is high. Therefore, we need to be fully prepared to handle this trauma when it comes to our classroom.

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Mindfulness in the Classroom: Fostering Resilient Learners

Every teacher wants their students to do well in school. Previously, it was thought the best way to do this was by having students “leave life at the door” and be blank slates in the classroom. Since then, research has shown time and again that this just isn’t possible. Students are not blank slates, and one thing they bring in with them is trauma. Trauma has become a widely talked about word but there are still misunderstandings about it. Initially, trauma was thought to only result from major catastrophic events but has since been more understood to include complex trauma, which “refers to the simultaneous or sequential occurrences of child maltreatment…that are chronic and begin in early childhood” (Souers & Hall, p. 20). These adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) affect students every day, including how they learn. Because of this, Souers and Hall wrote an excellent book “Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom” addressing these concerns and strategies for how to help students be resilient learners.

Trauma can force students to be “stuck” in their downstairs brain, but with proper support and practices, they can experience more in their upstairs brain, where meaningful learning can take place.

Practices to foster resilient learners

“Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom” mentions many great ideas to provide support for students, some of which are talked about in the video below as well

Relationships and Control

One idea talked about in both the book and the video is the importance of relationships. While it’s almost impossible to have a deep and meaningful with every student every year, just a positive relationship can still make a big difference. Many teachers feel the need to be in control of everything in the classroom, and this doesn’t allow students to be in charge of their own learning. One way trauma can surface is with behavioral issues and many teachers choose to deal with this by sending the student out of the room. In fact, “forced compliance does not teach accountability, and severe consequences and removal from the classroom do not induce learning” (p. 84). Instead, moments like these can be used to show empathy and allow students to be part of the learning process. On page 53, Souers and Hall mention the idea of involving students in the process so that it doesn’t just feel like the assignment is happening to them.

Frame of mind

As mentioned above, experiences and trauma do affect how people act and see the world, but that doesn’t mean that those experiences damaged them. Not only is this an important message for students to hear and understand, but many look at those who experienced trauma as being damaged, and that allows many students to just float by without ever confronting their experiences which can be detrimental to their learning.

This is just a small pinch of what’s talked about in Souers and Hall’s book
“Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom”. For more ideas and practices about trauma and how to foster resilient learners, it’s a great read.

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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
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Creating a Mindful, Trauma-Sensitive Classroom

“I am now challenging you to look beyond the behavior and focus on motive. If we can identify what may be motivating students to react, we can redirect them by providing alternative options for them to manage their stress.” (Souers & Hall, 2016, pp. 32)

Souers and Hall made this challenge to their educator audience – we need to look beyond the surface of our students’ behaviors and realize that trauma is omnipresent within the classroom. I present the same challenge to you here. I challenge you to look at the underlying student motives, although we are not to know the exact trauma, and create a classroom space that is sensitive to student trauma and to help students on their journeys in becoming a resilient science learning.

Image Reference: https://www.amazon.com/Fostering-Resilient-Learners-Strategies-Trauma-Sensitive/dp/1416621075

What is Trauma?

Before we talk about the importance of a trauma-sensitive classroom, we first must define trauma and ACEs. 

According to Souers and Hall, trauma is “an exceptional experience in which powerful and dangerous events overwhelm a person’s capacity to cope.” (Souers & Hall, 2016, pp. 15).

ACEs are adverse childhood experiences (Souers & Hall, 2016, pp. 2) or trauma events that occur in an individual’s childhood. There are a multitude of ACEs, some of which are shown below.

Image Reference: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/03/02/387007941/take-the-ace-quiz-and-learn-what-it-does-and-doesnt-mean

Why is creating a trauma sensitive classroom and aiding students on their journeys to becoming resilient science learners so important?

“Quite plainly, I believe that if our students aren’t in the learning mode – a term coined by Pete’s mentor, Frank C. Garrity, that refers to mental, physical, spiritual, and psychological readiness to learn – they simply will not learn. And students suffering from the effects of trauma are definitely not in the learning mode.” (Souers & Hall, 2016, pp. 26-27)

Students who are continually suffering from trauma are not in “learning mode.” And as many of us know, in school we learn more than the difference between precipitate vs redox reactions, it is also about learning problem-solving skills and how to work with others. Students will be shut off to ALL of these learning opportunities because of trauma if it is not given the care by the educators that it deserves. This can deprive students of valuable skills that can help them as they enter into every facet of society.


This is one example of the importance of trauma sensitive teaching and different strategies to achieve this goal.

How can we foster resiliency in our science students and create a trauma-sensitive classroom?

Looking at the different strategies that are outlined in the book, Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom by Kristin Souers and Pete Hall, there are so many strategies that I would employ in my future classroom and I would urge you to look into. Here, I will highlight a few different strategies!

Defining and Standing in our Cement Shoes

Souers and Hall describe cement shoes as our core beliefs and key aspects of who we are (Souers & Hall, 2016, pp. 45-46). Although we can think about what our cement shoes might be, it is important to write these down. We need to create cement shoes statements – or a mission statement for our classroom. Being rooted in who we are and how we want to act as an educator serves as a powerful model for our students and provides extra stability in the environment.

Souers and Hall describe cement shoes as our core beliefs and key aspects of who we are (Souers & Hall, 2016, pp. 45-46). Although we can think about what our cement shoes might be, it is important to write these down. We need to create cement shoes statements – or a mission statement for our classroom. Being rooted in who we are and how we want to act as an educator serves as a powerful model for our students and provides extra stability in the environment.

Image Reference: https://www.nicepng.com/ourpic/u2q8e6e6e6o0w7o0_shoe-clipart-snicker-shoes-clipart/

Student Activity: Mission Statements

Cement shoes are not only for educators. We can and should encourage our students to create mission statements, a.k.a. cement shoes, of their own. These can be kept private, but it would be a powerful exercise for the students to begin thinking about what this means to them.

  • This could be a first-day or week activity.
  • Students could be prompted to think about who they are as individuals, how they would like to be as students, and what aspects of their lives, in and out of the classroom, they find important. 
  • After students are given ample time to complete their individual mission statements, everyone should be brought together to create a classroom mission statement.
Image Reference: https://www.thoughtco.com/ways-to-write-better-in-high-school-3211608

“Having the Patience Not to Eat the Chocolate”

Souers & Hall, 2016, pp. 126

Teaching requires patience. It would be ridiculous to expect that students will understand the material after hearing it once. It requires patience in teaching students the momentum. Sometimes students might “get” the concept right away. Other times, it may take many days with different instructional methods for students to understand. The same can be said about guiding students to become resilient learners.

Image Reference: https://www.dreamstime.com/illustration/chocolate-bar-clip-art.html

We must meet students where they are in their journey. We cannot eat the chocolate too quickly, or in other words, try to force a quick fix of the trauma upon the student. As Souers and Hall discuss, “This requires us to be flexible in our teaching methods, discipline approaches, and interactions with individual students.” (Souers & Hall, 2016, pp. 128)

Student Activity: Formative Assessments or Student Check-Ins

Students should be given the opportunity to, anonymously or identifiably, be given formative assessments, or as I like to call them, Student Check-ins, where they are able self reflect and discuss their feelings in an individual and non-judgemental way. 

  • Students should be given these unit specific Check-ins to reflect on their feelings about their learning and classroom environment. 
  • Students should be given a larger Check-in several times throughout the to discuss their feelings about themselves as learners, how they are feeling about the classroom, how they are feeling about the school environment and themselves, and if they would like to schedule a meeting with the teacher to discuss things further.
Image Reference: https://www.collaborativeclassroom.org/blog/engaging-the-disengaged-number-eight-teacher-talk-part-one-to-praise-or-not-to-praise/

I would highly recommend reading Resilient Learners for further discussion of strategies that Souers and Hall recommend. Although this book is an excellent resource, I have included some other resources to help foster resiliency and foster a trauma-sensitive classroom!

  • https://www.edutopia.org/article/helping-students-trauma-tragedy-grief-resources
  • https://thetraumainformedteacher.com/blog-posts/ 
  • https://studentbehaviorblog.org/supporting-students-experiencing-trauma-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/ 

Souers, K. & Hall, P. (2016) Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom. ASCD.

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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:

https://www.liverpoolcamhs.com/aces/what-are-adverse-childhood-experiences/

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
https://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/the-secret-formula-for-resilience

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?

…SURVIVAL MODE (Souers)

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

STRATEGIES

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

IDEAS AND ACTIVITIES from Souers

Understanding “Upstairs” & “Downstairs” Brains

https://medium.com/playmoolah/engage-the-upstairs-brain-cd995bf8d68d
  • 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.

http://hersocalledsouthernlife.blogspot.com/2016/02/behind-every-successful-man-is-woman.html

…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.

https://quotesgram.com/teacher-student-quotes-argue-with/

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.

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Science Teaching 2.0: Fostering Resilient Learners

What does it mean to foster resilient learners? The authors of Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom (2016), Kristen Souers, a licensed mental health therapist, and Pete Hall, a veteran school principal and education consultant, provide teachers with important knowledge and techniques for developing resilient learners by helping students overcome trauma.

Trauma, or an Adverse Childhood Experiences(s)(ACE’s), is “an exceptional experience in which powerful and dangerous events overwhelm a person’s capacity to cope” (Souers and Hall, 2016, p. 15). The ACE’s can stem from various sources, such as:

  • Substance abuse in the home
  • Parental separation or divorce
  • Mental illness in the home
  • Witnessing domestic violence
  • Suicidal household member
  • Death of a parent or love one
  • Parental incarceration
  • Experience of abuse
  • Others (natural disaster, criminal behavior in the home, terminal or chronic illness of family member, military deployment of family member, homelessness, bullying, etc.)

Trauma is prevalent and it does not discriminate. It has become an epidemic and it occurs in all populations, socioeconomic levels, cultures, religions, and education levels. Sadly, nearly 35 million children in the US have experienced at least 1 type of trauma (Souers and Hall, 2016).

Teachers face the impact of student’s trauma every day in their classrooms. Here, student trauma can manifest itself as chronic absenteeism, disengagement, and behavior problems, among others. Too often, teachers are not adequately prepared to identify and address the challenges that stem from trauma and this can result in teacher frustration, low job satisfaction, and burn-out. Therefore, it is essential for teachers to learn about the importance of resiliency and how to foster it in the classroom.

https://www.riskandresiliencehub.com/auditing-your-bcp-and-dr-program-just-how-resilient-is-your-organization/

Resilience is “our capacity to acknowledge and attend to personal difficulties while still working toward expectations” (Souers and Hall, 2016, p. 154). Resilience doesn’t make the trauma disappear; however, it is about developing the skills to see past the trauma, find purpose and enjoyment in life, and manage stress in a healthy way (Souers and Hall, 2016).

So, how do we as teachers help our students be resilient learners?

The Classroom: fostering resilience in a trauma-sensitive learning environment

  • Building strong relationships and creating an environment that is safe and healthy enough for our students is essential for trauma-sensitive classrooms. The ways teachers communicate, attune to needs and emotions, hold students accountable to expectations, offer second chances, model characteristics of healthy relationships, and be available, predictable, and consistent can help students build resiliency and learn a different way of being (Souers and Hall, 2016).
  • Keeping the classroom out of “OZ”: when a trigger disrupts learning in the classroom, the key is to help students identify and learn to manage triggers in healthy ways (Souers and Hall, 2016). Be proactive and prepare students for beginning of class, make a habit of supporting learning through peer tutoring and cooperative learning opportunities, and involve students in the operation of the class (Souers and Hall, 2016, p. 63). By having a plan, you can avoid power struggles, address triggers, and stay out of OZ.
  • Develop effective communication habits for everyday interactions with students and for times of crisis and conflict. Souers and Hall (2016) provide 6 steps for communication with students (p. 79):
    • Listen
    • Reassure
    • Validate
    • Respond
    • Repair
    • Resolve
  • Teachers need to balance availability (emotional investment) and accountability (meeting of standards for learning, behaviors, and choices). Avoid viewing or treating students as damaged. Students are “forever changed, not forever damaged” by the trauma they experienced (Souers and Hall, 2016, p. 137).
  • Teach students about the biology of trauma and how the stressors of the flight, fight, or freeze response lead to a “downstairs brain” that disrupts learning. Teachers need to guide students into their “upstairs brain,” where the higher-functioning part of the brain helps students think, reason, and regulate the downstairs brain (Souers and Hall, 2016).
  • There are many services available to help students with their traumatic experiences both inside and outside of the school. It’s important for students to know all of their options when seeking help. These services may include: school counselors, social workers, mental health therapists, psychologists, nurses and doctors, and helplines.

In this video, Dr. Meredith Fox discusses the impact of trauma informed teaching:

Strategies for Teachers

  • “Cement shoes”: stay true to who you are as a person and teacher by developing a mission statement and consistently acting in congruence with personal mission to support students and hold them accountable
  • Be “safe enough” for your students
  • Give students (and yourself) grace
  • Give appropriate praise (“cookies”)
  • Invest in self-care techniques to avoid frustration and burn out

Understanding trauma prevalence and how it effects the brain is more important than ever in today’s society, where mass shootings, school violence, adolescent metal health issues (depression, suicide, anxiety, etc.), substance abuse, and other issues have become more common place. Teachers can be an integral part of the solution to helping students overcome trauma, develop resilience, and facilitate the necessary conversations around trauma in our schools and communities (Souers and Hall, 2016).

Additional blogs on fostering resilience in the classroom:

https://www.fosteringresilientlearners.org/blog

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/8-pathways-cultivate-student-resilience-marilyn-price-mitchell

Reference: Souers, K. and Hall, P. (2016). Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom. ASCD, Alexandria, VA.

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From Misconceptions to Comprehension

50 Common Misconceptions in the World of Software Development | Hacker Noon

What are Misconceptions?

Growing up, there were a few things that I had thought I knew for certain, like…

  • Venous blood is blue
  • The North Star is the brightest in the sky
  • Lightning never strikes the same place twice

Just to name few, but my favorite is that a penny dropped from the top of the Empire State building could kill a person on the sidewalk, if it hits them. All of these are called misconceptions! Why? These are all ideas that many of us had and probably believed for a long time (or maybe even sill believe!), even though they aren’t true. The definition of “misconception” from Oxford Languages is, “a view or opinion that is incorrect because based on faulty thinking or understanding.”

Above is a YouTube videos debunking some of the most common misconceptions!

How are Misconceptions Developed?

Misconceptions are typically developed by…

  • Preconceived notions from the natural world
  • Religious beliefs that defy scientific reasoning
  • Misunderstandings of certain concepts
  • Generational myths

These are the most common reasons that attribute to why so many people believe misconceptions, especially in science.

Good teaching practice exposes misconceptions, not hide them.

–Unknown

But How Do I Overcome Misconception in My Science Class?

Firs and foremost, you need to address the misconceptions that student may have about your specific class– whether it’s physicals, chemistry, biology, anatomy, etc. Once you’re ready and have the misconceptions that you’d like to debunk, here’s the following steps you can take…

  1. Facts– why is “right is right”
  2. Refute– why “wrong is wrong”
  3. Inoculation– the logistical behind the “right is right” and “wrong is wrong”
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