Fostering Resilient Learners

Souers and Hall (2016) ask the question: “Why do you suppose some children are more strongly affected by certain events than others are? What does this suggest for us as professionals?”

I remember attending a two day seminar with Dr. Bruce Perry in which he posited that one of the primary differences between the outcomes for two siblings who simultaneously experience trauma is the age that they were when the trauma occurred. Assuming a non-traumatic upbringing prior to the trauma, the older sibling would have had more time for normal brain development and would therefore be more resilient to the trauma.

I believe gender may also play a role. In my experience, females are often more resilient. This may have something to do with cultural gender roles and expectations. Women are allowed to seek external supports, while men are expected to “tough it out”, which leads to internalizing the effects of trauma.

Another, less predictable factor is the nature of the story that the individual tells his or her self. Some people see themselves as victims others see themselves as survivors. I believe that the way that a traumatic event is framed in a narrative can have a profound influence on how it affects an individual. If trauma is seen as a permanent barrier to success, then it becomes permanent and outcomes are poor. If trauma is seen as an obstacle to overcome then energy is focused on overcoming an obstacle, not lamenting a barrier, and outcomes are much better.

How can educators affect the nature of this narrative? I don’t know. I think that the tone of an individual’s narrative is influenced by the tone of their caregivers’ narratives. It is also affected by cultural and social interactions. Movies, music, peers, parents, and community members all influence the nature of  the individual’s narrative. Perhaps by providing opportunities for meta-cognitive discussions, educators can provide some of the tools necessary for students to become conscious of their own internal narrative, and that by re-framing their role in their personal story they can take control of their own destiny.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *