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I just finished my first read of the summer and it was fantastic, inspiring, and encouraging! If you checked out my previous post on summer reads for 2016 you would have found this one mentioned there. The book: Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom by Kristin Souers with Pete Hall was better than I had hoped.
Kristin Souers’s background is in mental health and Pete Hall’s resume includes teaching and administrator. The combination equates to realistic ways to use the information they are sharing, which if we are being honest doesn’t always seem to happen in professional development books. Part of why it feels do-able is because they encourage self-reflection and questioning when you find yourself in situations with a student, which I love.
The book, itself, is broken down into 5 sections:
- Live, Laugh, Love (Self-Care)
Section 1: Trauma explains what trauma is and looks like. The authors also discuss ACEs – Adverse Childhood Experiences – and how they impact a student’s education and what it might look like in the classroom. From there they explore how to respond to students in a way that wont hurt your relationship and will benefit the student. All of that in just the first section of the book! What!?!?!
Section 2: Self-awareness helps remind all educators why they started in the helping profession they are in. There are some self-reflecting questions that made me pause and think. They also give tips on how to stay grounded amid chaos that occurs in schools sometimes, as well as identifying your own and students’ triggers. As the saying goes, “If it’s predictable, it’s preventable” and they give strategies to help prevent some of the chaos.
Section 3: Relationships is my favorite because I feel that relationships are such a key component in education. One of the things the authors suggest is that we do not have to have life changing relationships with all of our students but, instead, we should aim to be “safe-enough and healthy-enough for every person in our lives.” For me, this was a game changer in the way I think about establishing relationships with all 400+ of my students. I marked this section of the book up (okay, I did this through the entire book)! There are just so many great nuggets of information and ideas.
One of the things Pete Hall said really stood out to me, “The first seven seconds of our interaction with every student in our school should be brimming with enthusiasm, joy, compliments, or some sort of friendly banter.” This can help a student get back on track after a rough morning on the bus or at home, this can help a student feel welcomed into school, this can make a student’s day. You never know how it can positively impact a student but it only takes 7 seconds and it gets everyone off to a good start. When I am free in the mornings I tend to be a greeter at our front door. This was a great reminder about how important that moment in the hall is AND the importance of being present, consistent, and available.
The last thing I am going to mention about this section is that I had lots of thoughts about Love & Logic as I read. There is a great emphasis with the Love & Logic approach and this book also puts a needed emphasis on relationships. If you are at all familiar with Love & Logic (and I am just learning about this approach) then I think a lot of this section will resonate with you too.
Section 4: Belief focused on your personal mindset about the students, families, and parents you work with each day. This section makes you evaluate how you view the kids you work with. There have certainly been moments in my short career as a school counselor where I have wondered if what I do at school will make any difference because of the up-hill battle students have outside of the school. I have been able to get myself out of that slump of hopelessness quickly and this book encourages that. The authors push the reader to think of what you CAN accomplish in the hours we have control over – the time the students ARE at school. We have an incredible opportunity as educators to make a true difference (even if we never hear about or see it ourselves). This section also touches on our own fears – fear and expectation that meltdowns will occur, that misbehaviors will happen, that we will not have control. Again, the authors give suggestions on ways to try to prevent the problem since many times they are predictable.
At my school I head B.E.S.T. meetings (Behavior Education Support Team) that focus on looking at students poor behavior choices and how the school can better support the student. Teachers fill out a request for assistance form and then we meet as a team (admin, counselor, psychologist, teachers, other parties involved). This section of the book gave me an entirely new outlook and approach for these meetings. I sent myself several work emails to ensure I don’t forget the points in this book.
Section 5: Live, Laugh, Love is broken down into 3 tiny sections on grace, cookies (praise & self-praise), and self-care. I found the overarching theme self-care, which I struggle with. The authors remind us that we have to model to our students what these things look like and then we can empower them to do the same in their own lives. Self-care is an important part of our jobs but if you are like me, it usually gets neglected. The authors break down self-care into 4 pieces: health, lvoe, competence, and gratitude. They also have a self-care challenge. Although I dont think I will follow the challenge to a T, I have made it a goal of mine this summer to build up a routine so once school begins again in August it will be easier (hopefully this plan works).
When the authors wrote about grace they asked the readers to think of an especially difficult parent that they’ve had to work with in the past or are still working with. Then challenge the reader to think of that parent’s greatest strength. I am going to try really hard to remember to do this in a difficult situation. Everyone we work with has strengths. Identifying them helps us view others with compassion. I loved this point, as well. Kids “need to know they came from something good” and that they have value. Sometimes we have to be the ones that help them find that value and goodness. With that said, one of the best things in the chapter on grace is a chart: blame versus grace in the classroom. I imagine I will refer to this page often during the school year when brainstorming with staff members about certain situations.
The biggest piece I took away from the cookie chapter was that “praise can actually be a trigger” for some students. I had never thought about that before but it makes a lot of sense. This chapter talks about the importance of praise, self-praise, and ways to incorporate it into our work with students.
Here are the authors speaking about their book:
Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom from ASCD Author to Author Videos on Vimeo.
I seriously loved this book and can’t recommend it enough. As soon as I finished it I sent out a staff-wide email about it, posted it on my personal facebook page as well as a counseling group, and personally mentioned it to some staff members, admin included, hoping they would read this book. I offered up my personal copy if they didn’t want to buy it. I work in a Title I school and many of my students have experienced a lot of trauma, but even if you don’t work in a high-needs school this book is for you. There are kids who have experienced trauma at every school and this book is a great resource. The authors challenge you to reflect on yourself and your role in kids lives, as well. Read Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom! You wont regret it.
Thanks for stopping by!