The ability to cope with – and overcome – adversity is a skill students carry with them for life. And, as teachers have seen this year, lots of students are already incredibly resilient. While studying, many have come up against economic difficulties, political and civil unrest, mental health issues, or their loved ones getting sick.
When it comes to student resilience, it’s important to remember that everyone deals with hardship differently. But as the American Psychological Association (APA) writes, “resilience involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that anyone can learn and develop. The ability to learn resilience is one reason research has shown that resilience is ordinary, not extraordinary.”
We know many teachers wonder how to develop resilience in students. So in this article, we’ll explore the four important components of resilience listed by the APA – and delve into some resilience activities for students in the classroom.
One way to build resilience, according to doctors and psychologists, is to foster connections with empathetic and trustworthy people.
You should always aim to be empathetic to students, but this year it’s particularly important. We recommend teachers have an open-door policy for students to come chat – whether they are having a hard time concentrating, keeping up with coursework, or just need some extra support.
It’s also important to foster student-to-student connections – again, particularly this year since most students have spent the majority of their time in isolation. Breakout rooms are a great tool to incorporate into online classes, as they let you interact with pupils in smaller groups face-to-face. They also help students build relationships with each other in the digital realm.
If you want to help students foster connections on a larger scale, check out Pearson and BBC Live Classes. The international project brings together learners aged 9-19 from classrooms across the globe to study English, get to know other students, and discover more about each other’s countries and cultures.
It’s a great opportunity for students to experience something a little different – and understand more about what life is like for teenagers around the world.
2. Healthy thinking
Another way to build resilience is through healthy and balanced thinking. For some people, this might be difficult – especially if they’re going through a rough time. But healthy thinking can be practiced. To do so, the APA recommends people focus on four points, which are:
- To keep challenges in perspective
- To have a positive outlook
- To understand change
- And to focus on learning from our pasts.
So how can teachers help build student resilience through this lens?
We always love incorporating history lessons into lesson plans. The pandemic, and all the uncertainties around it, is causing significant stress for many students right now. So why not learn about what’s happened in past pandemics with your class – using a short video like this one from the World Economic Forum – and pose resilience questions for students to answer:
You might want to discuss:
- How does this pandemic compare to others?
- How did the world overcome pandemics in the past?
- How did they change the world as a result?
- And what lessons can we learn from how past pandemics were handled?
If you prefer to keep things lighter, it can also be a great idea to focus on inspiring people who’ve overcome adversity and discuss with your class in what ways they were able to do so.
Great teachers support learners to find a sense of purpose. And it turns out, this can help students to become more resilient, too.
You can help students to find a sense of purpose in countless ways. But, volunteering in the community is a good place to start. These past months, we saw teachers and students around the world write letters to seniors in old age homes, or volunteer to read to people in lockdown via Zoom – which are excellent initiatives. You might also want to write a petition as a class for a cause students care about, or simply donate a canned good to families in need.
Writing a reflection journal is also a good self-discovery tool for students. Have students write a little bit about what they learned about themselves, and how they feel, at the end of each week. Or, have them write to their future selves about life this year (this will be a great momentum for students to look back on).
Finally, encourage students to set goals and be proactive. For teenage English students, Pearson English has a range of recorded webinars and resources to train learners on important skills in the workplace, like communication, decision making, and teamwork. There are also training videos for teachers.
Teachers might not be with their students at all times. But they can encourage students to be healthy while class is in session, and give them the tools to take care of themselves at home. It’s a great idea to begin and end class with a stretch – or even a fun dance if students are younger.
And, don’t forget the importance of mindfulness. “The benefit of mindfulness is it’s so helpful in taking you out of that overthinking headspace that we can get into when we feel stressed about something and back into the present moment,” said Amy Mallory, a mindfulness expert and yoga teacher.
So how can you incorporate mindfulness into the classroom?
To start, said Amy, “simply find any opportunity to stop with your students where they are in the classroom and take a breath. Maybe ten deep breaths, or simply notice something around them in the present moment.”
On the Pearson English website, you can also download a range of simple recorded mediation activities for young learners and adults – as well as a pocket guide for introducing mindfulness at your school.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide on how to teach resilience in the classroom. Now, we want to hear from you – how do you plan to help students build resilience this coming year?
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