6 Ways to Foster Resilient Students

“Get Back Up Again”

I’m not giving up today
There’s nothing getting in my way
And if you knock knock me over
I will get back up again, oh
If something goes a little wrong
Well you can go ahead and bring it on
‘Cause if you knock knock me over, I will get back up again
Lyrics: Get Back Up Again by Anna Kendrick

If a pink, fuzzy haired Troll singing in the dangerous forest can be this resilient, so can our students.  What if we all lived by this positive, get back up again, mentality? What if our schools and classrooms looked at a problem head on with a “bring it on” attitude.  What if our students “got back up” everytime they were knocked down? What if our students were resilient in the face of adversity?

“I will never be able to do this”, “I don’t get it…it is too hard.” We have all met the students who are so afraid of failure, they refuse to try.  We have been in classrooms where after a few minutes, students give up or think that there is only one way to solve a problem. We have students that sit and wait for the teacher to give them the answer. As educators, we strive to build resilient students who can continue to be high functioning despite setbacks.  

When we think about the workplaces our students will soon be navigating, resiliency is an important and marketable skill. 21st Century jobs require the ability to learn from mistakes, thrive through uncertainty, and stay inspired in the face of failure.  Being that the greatest success comes after adversity, how can we support our students to be resilient when things do not go their way the first time, or the second? Here are 6 things to keep in mind to foster resilient learners who will get back up again!

1. Keep Perspective and Check In

The student is beginning to shut down.  Their body language is giving you all of the signs that their behavior is escalating.  They are triggered, your stress levels are increasing too….let’s take a step back and rewind the day.  Instead you take a few seconds to check in with the student to see how they are walking into the school that morning.  Maybe they didn’t sleep last night, maybe they haven’t had breakfast. Understanding the perspective of our students allows us to support them better

2. Allow Productive Struggle

As a respected adult and mentor in their lives, what you think of your students is important.  You communicate what you think of them by what you say and what you don’t say. Jumping in to rescue students when things get difficult communicates that you do not feel they can do it themselves.  Communicating your belief in them, especially during difficult tasks and situations, goes a long way in producing resilient students. Praising their effort and their ability to stick with a task is invaluable.  

3. Create a Safe Environment to Make Mistakes (and Learn from Them)

Navigating mistakes and learning from setbacks are one of the most important and valuable skills we can impart on our students.  The more that they can experience the value of a mistake and see them as an opportunity for learning the better. Allowing for mistakes and celebrating their power will help build students who can continue on despite adversity.

4. Give Students Choice and Feedback

Empowering students by giving them choice also lets them experience and have ownership over their consequences.  So often, the word consequence seems negative, however there is a consequence of every action and some consequences are positive.  It is like cause and effect. If the student doesn’t have control over the causality of a situation, they will not be able to celebrate, or identify with the effect.  An adult mentor can support students in their understanding of how their choices produced specific consequences and allow them to metacognitively understand the effects of their actions.  This understanding and ownership will create a resiliency that will empower students in the future.

5. Enhance Student’s Social Intelligence

Self awareness is an invaluable skill.  If we can increase our student’s social intelligence, we can in turn help them to be resilient, not just in social situations, but in academia as well.  When students can self regulate their behavior during times of discomfort and distress, then they can in turn be more present and successful in the school setting.  Teaching students strategies to identify and regulate their own emotions goes a long way in building resilient learners.

6. Build Positive Relationships

More and more of our students come to school carrying emotional baggage. Many of our students experience trauma. Childhood experiences, both positive and negative, have a tremendous impact on future violence victimization as well as lifelong health and opportunity for our students. Much of the foundational research in this area has been referred to as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Student with higher ACE scores are more likely to experience negative health, behavior and limited life potential.  According to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), caring adults outside the family who can serve as role models or mentors have a buffering effect on these negative experiences.  Building relationships as well as mentoring students will build resiliency.

The movie TROLLS and lyrics of the “Get Back Up Again” song represent resiliency well. CLICK HERE for a lesson plan to use with staff or students to highlight resilient behavior and why it is such an important skill.


Sarah Hayden
Instructional Coach, TEEN TRUTH

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