When it comes to nurturing successful students, resiliency is one of the most important qualities teachers can develop. No learner—regardless of development or gift—will avoid adversity in an educational environment. When those challenges arise, how they handle the moment can be the difference between confidently unlocking a new achievement and a potentially catastrophic erosion of their self-esteem that can last for weeks, months, or even years.
Some students are naturally more resilient than others, but resilience is also a life skill that can be analyzed and taught. Growth and perseverance go hand in hand, and difficult classroom situations present unique opportunities for teachers and their students to explore more positive ways of engaging with it.
Students empowered with the strategies, skills, and support to manage challenges and process negative feelings are better equipped to find their way to success. Fostering resilience in education should be a primary focus for every teacher, and with a few simple principles (and a supportive principal!) they can instill confidence, promote a healthy classroom, and give their students the tools to manage any problem they face.
1. Emphasize Progress, Not Just Achievements
Completing required tasks, taking tests, and passing certain regulatory exams throughout the school year mark important milestones for non-negotiable events, but getting there can be slow and incremental. Learning is a formative process, and to cross to the finish line students need to be able to keep moving forward.
Reinforcing the value of effort, celebrating the steps along the way, and encouraging sustained dedication is critical to inspiring resilience. By highlighting progress and celebrating perseverance, the road to success is paved with a positive sense of purpose and drive that translates to experiences far beyond the classroom.
2. Practice Goal Setting and Time Management
Teaching the tactics and habits of progress are equally important for developing resilience in education. Self-efficacy—the belief that one is capable of achieving goals—evolves from a knowledge of basic strategies for problem solving and the confidence to deploy them.
Goal setting and time management are the foundation of student empowerment and self-efficacy, and they can be reinforced in nearly every aspect of the classroom experience. By setting goals that are appropriate, realistic, and achievable in the time available, students gain the ability to chart paths to success.
Important considerations that benefit students of all ages and developmental levels include things like:
- Start early and don’t rush
- Reflect on what’s important
- Keep it simple
- Anticipate challenges and strategize
- Create a list of goals
- Visualize and articulate necessary processes and steps
3. Make the Classroom a Safe Place to Try and Fail
Success is always the goal of education, but along the way students will fail over and over again. The consequences of failure can make or break a student’s willingness to take risks in the future, and that may be determined in large part by how their classmates empathize with their experience.
Classroom culture should reflect a positive and supportive environment for students to be vulnerable and risk failure on the way to success. Reinforcing for all students that failure is a part of the process is key, and opening the door for group reflection offers the opportunity to gain insights about their own struggles.
Also, teachers aren’t perfect either! Being transparent when a mistake is made and sharing that failure is a lifelong process can be incredibly beneficial for young people to see.
4. Support Healthy Emotional Processing
Developing positive self image and stress management behaviors are indispensable skills everyone should learn, and that includes students. As a teacher, you can observe when negative thought patterns arise and encourage the students to self-identify these patterns so they can be purposeful in redirecting to more positive thoughts. Shifting away from a negative mindset can be the difference between a student who keeps at it and a student who gives up quickly.
Teaching these concepts can even be taken a step further to encourage the students to reinforce positive thinking among classmates. By coaching them to listen carefully and empathetically, students can be a first, best line of support for resilience in education.
5. Encourage Community Involvement
Great things happen when people come together in education. By encouraging student and family participation in school events and communities, teachers can promote positive outlooks through ownership and a sense of belonging.
Academic and creative clubs, extracurricular activities, and school events are all great ways of giving students a larger sense of involvement, value, and a feeling of safety and acceptance among their peers. A strong community also creates opportunities for students to share about their past challenges, and how they were able to bounce back.
Creating Resilience in Education is the Path to Creating Stronger Students
Finding ways to encourage struggling students and developing resilience can be the most rewarding experience of a teacher’s career. Creating strong, self-confident students who can manage adversity and support their teammates through tough moments is a tangible good that makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Resilient Classrooms created by Premiere’s Danell Lynn, M.Ed., Learning and Development Lead Trainer, Arizona Department of Education - HES, can help you understand characteristics of resilience in education, learn how to foster self-efficacy through proven strategies, and encourage a supportive classroom environment. All coursework offered by Premiere is created by industry leading professionals offering their expertise to help you rise to the top of your field, and content is available online so you can stay up to date and compliant on a timeline that works for you.