resilience in the classroom

Resilience is a life skill that is incredibly significant in overcoming difficult experiences, especially during childhood. This article describes why classrooms are the ideal environments to implement resilience-building activities, and how you can help promote such action.

Alyssa Simone

Resilience, or an individual’s ability to healthily cope with and grow from adversity, trauma, or other life stressors, plays a dramatic role in a child’s emotional well-being over the course of his or her life. The development of this ability can manifest itself in effective problem solving, autonomy, empathy, and willingness to seek support from compassionate family members. However, according to a 2020 study conducted by Cigna Resilience, only around 45% of young children exhibit evidence of resilient behaviors. This shocking statistic reveals that over half of our population is at risk of experiencing consequences that come with a lack of this crucial skill, including anxiety, depression, and other mental or behavioral disorders. Unfortunately, many lack the psychological resources needed in order to overcome the challenges they will inevitably encounter as they age. So how can we, as a society, combat this deficiency and ensure that every child is equipped with the tools they need to build their resilience?

The solution is to mandate the teaching of resilience in the classroom setting, where a vast amount of time in a person’s life is spent. Since children are highly impressionable and childhood experiences can frequently shape one’s outlook on life in the future, it is critical to educate our generation on this concept early on. When one enters preschool, or even kindergarten, it is likely one of their first opportunities to interact with an influential adult who they are not related to. If their caregiver at home fails to provide them with the nurture and warmth that they so desperately desire, such as by resorting to abuse when expectations are not met or neglecting their child’s physical and emotional needs, there is a chance of redemption if their school environment promotes an atmosphere of hardiness. Of course, teachers would need to attend training courses, preferably by psychologists specializing in child development, but ultimately, the time commitment will be well worth it. In fact, the teaching of resilience can be integrated into daily classroom activities, serving as a rebuttal to parents who may claim that a child goes to school solely to learn and view emotional development as a waste of resources.

For example, a sense of purpose is an attribute that is very strongly associated with resilience. In order to foster this in an academic setting, a teacher could initiate either group or private discussions regarding students' personal interests, cultural backgrounds, and other factors that are unique to each child. With this newly acquired insight, instructors could implement activities that are relevant to their students and even suggest possible extracurricular activities to the administration that would receive eager involvement. These measures ensure that everyone will be able to participate and discover meaning in classroom experiences, with no student feeling excluded because of their race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or unconventional talents. Rather than shunning those who are different, individuality will be celebrated. Another important element of resilience is valuing effort. Instead of crushing students under the weight of insurmountably high expectations and forcing them to stomach additional stress, teachers can provide reinforcement for making genuine attempts rather than demonstrating perfection. As an alternative to penalizing children for incorrectly spelling words in their writing, they can be praised for including the sounds they can discern in a particular word so they can utilize words with familiar meanings, but unfamiliar spellings. This small technique can have a monumental impact on one’s future by encouraging them to embrace challenges, not to run away from them as so many of us are inclined to do.

Clearly, it does not require much strain to establish this habitat of emotional nurture, a key component of an individual’s life experience, so every possible effort should be made to include resilience-building activities in the classroom. Supportive teacher-student relationships have an incredibly strong positive correlation with social and emotional development among students. Especially if the chance is absent in a child’s home environment, schools provide the ideal conditions for skills such as autonomy, a sense of purpose, social competence, problem solving, and achievement motivation, just to name a few, to be inscribed into the minds of our future generation. Their contributions to society, sincere relationships, and most importantly, mental and emotional health, lie in the hands of our nation’s 3.6 million teachers, but regardless of occupation, every single person has the ability to advance this cause. Whether it is by scheduling a phone call with your child’s school principal, alluding to the significance of resilience during parent teacher conferences, or simply educating yourself and spreading awareness by taking advantage of available resources, your voice will be heard if you are loud enough. You can make a lasting difference in your child’s future, and there is no excuse for staying silent.