How to Teach & Promote Resilience


When students are faced with challenging situations in your school or classroom, how do they react? Do they quit? Are they experiencing feelings of frustration and lash out? What should the teacher react?

When students are faced with challenging situations in your school or classroom, how do they react? Do they quit? Are they experiencing feelings of frustration and lash out? What should the teacher do? How can staff more effectively support these students? Before deciding what the adults should do, it’s important to identify the root cause of the issue for the student.

A necessary part of student development is responding to failure and disappointment. How a student adjusts to an adverse experience can be measured by their resilience. Resilience is the response to trauma, tragedy, stress, and adversity and represents how someone adapts to a challenge. To better understand resilience beyond individual efforts toward success, we can examine how the influence of systemic inequities, learning environment and access to supports shape how and when students use this skill.

Check out more resources on Classroom Behavior Management

Imagine that you have a learner who is multiple grade levels behind in math and they are struggling with moving through their lessons and meeting academic expectations. This is not a short term issue as this student has been failing for awhile and is now starting to resent school. This student is internalizing underlying messages about their ability and is actively and psychologically experiencing failure.

How would you begin to addressing the apparent behavior and attitude?

The challenge could be specific to the subject matter, environmental or social contexts that directly impact the student’s experience. Getting to the root cause of the issue is critical for appropriate and effective support. Teachers must identify whether or not the student is struggling with the content and materials or if there is a lack of motivation. You can ask the student directly or use clues from previous assignments to gauge why the student is displaying a negative attitude.

Once you have identified the root cause of the behavior choices, follow the steps below to help the student use resilience during difficult situations.

Steps to teach and promote resilience

Define Resilience

Do not confuse this character trait with whether or not a student can stay focused on an assignment. Resilience is how the student adjusts and reacts to change or challenge. Recognize the complexity of the skill and learn to be aware of how different students show resilience day to day.

Identify the issue

Determine what it is that the student is responding to. If the challenge is the mode of learning for that lesson, adjust. Sometimes students are being impacted by other environmental experiences like belonging or feeling valued as a student, or relationships with others in the classroom.

Build self-confidence

As the teacher, identify areas of strength for the student. Remind the student of their abilities through encouragement and praise. This is also an opportunity to identify short term attainable goals that will encourage student progress. A strengths-based approach that validates the student’s academic prowess will positively influence the student’s perspective.

Make the connection

If a student is struggling with a concept in a particular subject matter, the teacher should make connections to previous knowledge and or relatable experience. This is also a great time to remind the student of examples when they were able to solve a similarly difficult problems in the past.

Make adjustments

In order to best support students, the teacher must continue to find ways to promote resilience. As you are working with different students, take note of the areas they continue to develop. Document their success and make adjustments where needed. Give yourself and the student time to see the results. Resilience requires a level of flexibility in the approach.

Revisit these steps as often as possible when addressing difficult student behavior choices. When a student exhibits behaviors similar to our example, these steps are a great way to prepare yourself for working with them through the difficulty. Define what resilience looks like for that student, identify the issue at hand, support confidence-building, make the connection, and adjust if necessary. What’s important to note in these situations is that there is not a lack of skill, rather an opportunity for the teacher to cultivate the appropriate learning environment that motivates the student.

Teaching and promoting resilience is about creating spaces that authentically believe in the possibility of our young people. Focusing on self-confidence and making connections for students promotes resilience and ultimately impacts their learning advances their development. All students have this skill at varying levels and we can always work to support them. Students sometimes just need a little push to remind them of their own brilliance.

Here at Kickboard we have seen school culture transform because of effective implementations of PBIS. We also have the tools and resources to support your school team as they begin to implement PBIS as a way to promote positive school culture. Click here to learn more about how Kickboard can support PBIS in your school.