Resilience: It’s a Practice
Post written by Carla Tantillo and Lara Veon, Mindful Practices
Among the most heartbreaking moments as an educator is that of observing a student who doesn't believe in herself and sees a mistake—be it a social interaction gone bad or a failing grade—as a fracture of character instead of an opportunity for growth. Similarly upsetting is witnessing a student who experiences trauma and loss withdraw or act out in unpredictable and often disruptive behavior.
At moments like these resilience often seems an inconsistent trait. However, similarly to other social-emotional skills, the practice of helping students cultivate resilience can indeed be taught. It needn't occur in isolation and it should be taught with a whole child approach. Below are five strategies for integrating resiliency development into your classroom:
1. Create safety and structure.
Perhaps the most elemental component in building resiliency in your students is creating a classroom culture that feels safe. Consistent policies and procedures bring comfort to students who need structure. In addition, consistently communicated teacher expectations also contribute to safety. Safety results from students having more regulated nervous systems, which then allows them greater access to the internal resources that might be shut down from instability, insecurity, or a sense of powerlessness. Making sure that classroom rules and procedures are clearly posted in your classroom and messaged appropriately to parents is an excellent first step in creating a safe and structured classroom environment.
2. Incremental and attainable goals.
Integrating reasonable and incremental goals into classroom lessons and projects can help students build mastery step-by-step in a way that instills confidence and a sense of competence. Easily integrated into this strategy is the philosophy "life is a practice." When we can teach children that learning life's lessons is a fluid practice that involves both disappointment and mastery, we help them cultivate curiosity about the process and not just the expectation of a perfect outcome. Creating a goal-setting journal or establishing goal-setting partners are both effective strategies to help students feel supported and also held accountable to their goal once it is set. Visit this page for a goal-setting worksheet.
Fostering the power of community in your classroom creates opportunity for students to build empathy, connect with each other, and engage in reciprocal validation of individual and shared experiences. Helping students organically experience a network of support also provides a forum for the development of safe conflict-resolution skills, positive self-esteem, and self-efficacy. To build community among your students, hold consistent classroom meetings or forums. Help students find their voice and practice listening to others. Utilize these same listening practices during instructional time and encourage parents to help students practice listening at home.
4. Opportunities for reflection.
Building in moments for reflection—both individually and as thought partners—teaches students self-awareness skills and provides a nonjudgmental structure for monitoring growth. Establish a classroom routine that consistently includes guided relaxation and journaling 2–3 times per week. Cue students with reflection prompts, such as "Write down some thoughts that go through your mind when you are feeling nervous" or "Describe a time recently when you were proud of yourself." As with any classroom practice, consistency is key for students to feel safe opening up and expressing their thoughts and feelings. Visit this page for a journal reflection worksheet.
5. Modeling resiliency.
As educators, it's more important that we model what it means to be resilient than anything we might say to students. However, modeling can be difficult as we face the many day-to-day bureaucratic and social challenges in the field of education. There are three guidelines to help us mindfully model resiliency strategies for our students:
- First, we must consistently practice self-awareness, empathy, and curiosity.
- Then, we must feel safe and have skills to regulate our own emotions when we are activated at both school and home.
- Last, we must also believe we are practicing and exhibitting that belief in our actions daily.
Using the above strategies into your classroom in a consistent and repetitive manner will help your students develop resilience. Integrating them in both curriculum and classroom culture can help your students be the empathic, curious, and confident learners we want to be our future. And remember: it's a practice!
Carla Tantillo is an international presenter, consultant, teacher, author, yogi, and dog lover. She is the founder of Mindful Practices, has a master's degree in curriculum and instruction, and is a certified yoga teacher. Tantillo was a founding teacher and curriculum director of a high-poverty school in Chicago and has taught English, social studies, and drama at both the secondary and elementary levels. She is the cocreator of Hip-HopYoga and provides professional development to schools across the country. Tantillo is also proud to be an ambassador alumna for Lululemon Athletica. She is dedicated to putting yoga and wellness strategies into the hands of students and teachers across the globe.
Lara Veon is a team member at Mindful Practices. She is a body-centered psychotherapist, educator, writer, and yoga instructor who has been teaching and counseling in education and community settings for more than 10 years. Veon enjoys sharing the transformational effect of yoga and wellness with students in all stages of life. Contact Mindful Practices at admin@MindfulPracticesYoga.com.