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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