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Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom

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In this galvanizing book for all educators, Kristin Souers and Pete Hall explore an urgent and growing issue--childhood trauma--and its profound effect on learning and teaching.

Grounded in research and the authors' experience working with trauma-affected students and their teachers, Fostering Resilient Learners will help you cultivate a trauma-sensitive learning environment for students across all content areas, grade levels, and educational settings. The authors--a mental health therapist and a veteran principal--provide proven, reliable strategies to help you

* Understand what trauma is and how it hinders the learning, motivation, and success of all students in the classroom.
* Build strong relationships and create a safe space to enable students to learn at high levels.
* Adopt a strengths-based approach that leads you to recalibrate how you view destructive student behaviors and to perceive what students need to break negative cycles.
* Head off frustration and burnout with essential self-care techniques that will help you and your students flourish.

Each chapter also includes questions and exercises to encourage reflection and extension of the ideas in this book. As an educator, you face the impact of trauma in the classroom every day. Let this book be your guide to seeking solutions rather than dwelling on problems, to building relationships that allow students to grow, thrive, and--most assuredly--learn at high levels.

215 pages, Paperback

Published January 26, 2016

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Kristin Van Marter Souers

3 books14 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 188 reviews
Profile Image for Laurie.
136 reviews16 followers
February 7, 2017
If you are new to public education and have never thought or heard about ACES and trauma sensitive classrooms, then this might be a decent introduction for you: the prose is certainly brisk, casual-collegial, and readable.
If, however, you have taught successfully in public schools for any length of time, you will likely have heard of and tried most of the potential interventions in the book already in the course of managing your own classes and maintaining your own enthusiasm for teaching. The "strategies" here, in many cases felt patronizingly facile (write a personal mission statement!, get some exercise!, stop labeling kids!), although I did glean two potential charts to fill out if needed in future.
IMHO, this book could easily have been a short, free PDF including the basic background plus the scant actual tactics and specific interventions, so that teachers and administrators could save their time and money, perhaps spending them on self care or on their students, as suggested in the book itself.
Profile Image for Phil J.
729 reviews56 followers
July 19, 2021
What I wanted: A detailed explanation of how trauma changes the neurology of the brain and how to work with students who have suffered that type of damage.
What I got: A 200 page pep talk with some nice tips thrown in.

I think it really shows that this was written for teachers by people who are not teachers. I often felt like I was reading a watered down version of The Power of Our Words: Teacher Language That Helps Children Learn.

p. 29- Flight/Fight/Freeze responses. The difference between flight and freeze in the classroom is that the list for flight seems more active- faking sleep, daydreaming. The list for freeze is more about numbness, blankness, and refusal to be helped.
p. 31- Instead of "amygdala" the author uses the term "downstairs brain."
p. 43- Uh, that's not what "cement shoes" are.
p. 67- I like the stuffed animal peekaboo breathing exercise.
p. 79- Steps of listening when a student is mad at you:
1. Listen
2. Reassure (I'm glad you spoke up)
3. Validate (It's understandable that you feel that way)
4. Respond (explanation)
5. Repair (apologize)- I am more selective about this step than the author seems to be.
6. Resolve (learning/action steps)
p. 96- It's not about forming a relationship with every student, it's about being safe enough that that could happen. I find that a reassuring idea.
p. 137- Forever changed, not forever damaged seems like a useful phrase for helping people conceptualize a post-trauma identity.
pp. 100-190 was pretty much a long pep talk about being a kind person.
pp. I like the self-care scorecard and the four traits of self-care: exercise, gratitude, self-acknowledge (praise), and competence (which actually means challenging yourself with new things).
Profile Image for Donna Heitmann.
62 reviews5 followers
August 14, 2017
This book, and others like it, should be required reading for all educators, especially those still pursuing their degree/certification. It is imperative for society in general, but especially anyone working with children, to increase their awareness and understanding of trauma and ACES. Souers offers many non-traditional strategies that most likely will challenge educators to step out of their comfort zone to view and address behaviors in a very different light. This can be especially challenging for veteran teachers who have never used this type of approach or philosophy. However, she points out that "If we want to continuously grow and learn, we must make it a priority to challenge ourselves. We all have our comfort zones; learning happens just outside those zones" (pg.196).
Souers includes many powerful stories from the field that illustrate the power we have to help even the most troubled students grow and experience success in their own way and at their own pace.
The last part of the book reflects on self care for those in this field. Overall, readers will be guided to reflect on their beliefs and practices. A must read for anyone working with children.
Profile Image for Leah Porter.
35 reviews2 followers
August 4, 2018
Loved this as an educator and human being. Engaging, fast paced, with a lot of heart. Looking forward to implementing many of the things I learned from this book in the upcoming school year.
713 reviews2 followers
November 23, 2016
The first 2/3 of the book is definitely worth reading, as Souers and Hall write about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) that impact the students in our classrooms and the adults in our lives. This has some powerful insights--that we don't need to know someone's story to support them; that we shouldn't be overly "soft" on students who have been through trauma to protect them, as we may ultimately handicap them more; that multiple ACEs can result in health issues as an adult; how we can help students connect with their "upstairs" brains; and that childhood trauma doesn't need to be crippling for life. I would recommend this for anyone who works with children, although the last 1/3 of the book is more of a self-help book and could be skipped.
Profile Image for Amy.
45 reviews1 follower
August 18, 2022
I was so excited to read this book— I thought that it would primarily be about concrete ways to help students feel safe in the classroom. While she touched on some helpful methods, this book was mostly comprised of colloquialisms and fairly obvious facts. She touched on some trauma research at the beginning of the book, but after that, much of her advice was based on what seemed to be anecdotal evidence. In my opinion, we didn't need to read an entire chapter about the importance of breathing/breathing exercises. We didn't need to read three whole chapters on why good relationships with students are so important, and we certainly didn't need an entire section entitled, "Live, Laugh, Love".

One of the (very) few things I found to be helpful was her comment about helping students to determine when they are in their "downstairs brain", or the part of their brain that activates the fight, flight, or freeze responses. If we can be mindful enough to notice our kids switching in and out of this part of their brain, we in turn help them to notice when it happens. By doing this, we can help the kids be able to articulate their feelings of fear/frustration.

I don't know. By no means am I an expert teacher, but this seemed like very level one information to me. I'm sure there are others who have gleaned helpful tips from this book, but I think the title is very misleading.
Profile Image for Becky Pavich.
19 reviews
August 21, 2021
This was a good read for the beginning of this school year. This book is about adult mindset when interacting with students, which it did well. More specific, actionable strategies to use in the moment with students would have been appreciated.
Profile Image for Feliciana.
79 reviews9 followers
July 22, 2020
As a school social worker, I have a difficult time rating this book since I have more training and knowledge about trauma than the intended audience. I think that this book would be good for new educators who have very little knowledge of trauma and it's physical and emotional impact on students. As a person of color, I felt that she did not address racial trauma and how that shows up at school. I would have liked her to go more in-depth regarding implicit bias of educators and school staff (who are majority white) and how that can cause more harm to students with trauma histories. As I was reading through the book, I felt this book was written by a white person for primarily white educators who mostly teach white students. I was put off by how she chose to describe certain personal experiences, which to me demonstrated her own bias. An example of this is on page 174: " I got lost on the way to the airport looking for a gas station...I ended up in a rather sketchy neighborhood at a gas station with bars over the attendant's window." That statement is a very loaded statement with a lot of assumptions about the area, and who lives there.
Despite my concerns with the book, I think teachers with no trauma training could use this book as a starting point in their education to becoming more trauma informed.
Profile Image for Kelley.
78 reviews4 followers
February 4, 2021
The book itself has a promising premise, one I am very passionate about, but none of it was ground-breaking. I waited for the data-supported strategies (hence the title) and practical classroom guidance...but mostly what I found were simplistic anecdotes and platitudes folded in with psychology of trauma 101. Not unhelpful, but not much gained. It was written to be studied with a group, so maybe the authors wanted to keep the content basic for a variety of readers. There are far better resources out there, and I would venture to say they are much more well-written.
Profile Image for Julie Tuck.
226 reviews8 followers
June 18, 2019
Excellent book about trauma and the effects it has on students and their learning environment. I especially liked the part about self-care: four components of self care include health, love, competence and gratitude.
Profile Image for Rita.
73 reviews1 follower
March 15, 2022
For a book with "strategies" in the title, I found it light on actual strategies and high in anecdotes and generalities.
Profile Image for Alisa.
39 reviews2 followers
January 8, 2020
It feels unfair rating this book, since I have more training in this field than would be expected for the intended audience of the book. So who is the intended audience? I think this would be a great introduction to teachers and other school staff with little to no knowledge about trauma or ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) who want some insight and motivation on how to start moving their educational practice toward the trauma-sensitive. For those already experienced in running trauma-sensitive classrooms or who have a moderate or more amount of knowledge about the impact of trauma on children, you can probably skip this book.
Profile Image for Lynn.
3,220 reviews60 followers
December 5, 2017
Very disappointing, very general textbook about working with students with trauma in the classroom. The shallowness of its coverage and advice is alarming and the examples given are pretty slight also, all anecdotal. This book reads more like a talk given my a motivational speaker ready to visit your school any day now. Not a very effective approach to dealing with children with trauma and no mention of immigrant and refugee children who may have experienced trauma getting to the US. Very disappointed.

Profile Image for Josh.
607 reviews6 followers
July 29, 2017
While the information in this book is certainly important for teachers and social workers to understand and discuss, the author grounds precious little of it in scholarship. Instead, Souers stock in trade is the idiomatic cliche; the book contains 200 pages and at least as many platitudes. The content is too important to be treated so ham-handedly.
27 reviews
December 24, 2016
The first half of this book is solid, but it falls apart in the second half. Seems like the author had a solid article that couldn't be stretched to a full book. Still, lots of good information and advice in that first half.
Profile Image for Erika Moreno.
43 reviews
August 29, 2020
Definitely a must read for educators. It’s not necessarily new and riveting information, but even for seasoned educators, it gives us the opportunity to take a step back and reflect on how we’re fostering resilient learners.
Profile Image for Heather Stringham.
319 reviews8 followers
May 27, 2019
Helping Our Kids and Ourselves

This book gave me many ideas to consider and reflect on. It's not all about the curriculum; it's also about helping the children in our care.
Profile Image for Ms. Morgan .
35 reviews2 followers
June 25, 2019
Nice introductory content. If you've already read up on ACEs or know a bit about trauma-informed teaching, this is probably not worth your time.
Profile Image for Bekah Nolan.
46 reviews1 follower
April 23, 2021
This book is a great read for any educators, parents, or anyone who lives and deals with children!! The trauma-informed classroom has been coming to many people's attention recently, which is incredible and necessary. This book carried that topic very well and focused how to balance the trauma-sensitive classroom. Souers also speaks about self-care for the educator and gives great tips on how to be trauma-sensitive in scenarios that definitely happen in your classroom, maybe daily! I recommend!
Profile Image for Emily Johnson.
10 reviews1 follower
August 16, 2022
This was a required reading for a class around behavior... I enjoyed some aspects of the book, but felt like it could be useful for educators who don’t know much about the “why” behind restorative practices.
Profile Image for Holly Zehr.
37 reviews
September 28, 2018
Excellent! So practical and thoughtful, accessible and heartfelt. I started implementing practices for creating trauma responsive classroom management before I even finished the book. Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Kyrie Beckman.
94 reviews
March 30, 2019
This book had simple strategies to implement right away to help students. It’s great to remember what we do and why we do it! I highly recommend for educators.
19 reviews
December 8, 2018
I don't often write reviews but this book was amazing. If you work with children in any capacity, this should be a mandatory read.
Profile Image for Karn.
44 reviews2 followers
November 8, 2020
Very good tips, just not written in my style.
Profile Image for Thomas.
168 reviews1 follower
March 23, 2021
Cliché, pseudo-scientific, re-summarizing of literature on restorative justice in education and culturally relevant pedagogy without citations passed off as original, no meaningful understanding of multiculturalism or criticality demonstrated for practice or acknowledged
Profile Image for Marcie.
89 reviews
July 4, 2017
Very helpful read! This book will be revisited for strategies working with my students, parents and taking care of myself!
Profile Image for Dehlia.
255 reviews1 follower
November 25, 2019
Rereading contemporaneously with beginning a new year with some higher than high ACES kids and wow, this book still gives good advice and strategies, but it is acutely more directed when you are in it, in it. Oooooooffff, what in the living fk are we doing to our children? We can do better and indeed, we must.

This was a terrific quick and worthwhile read. I loved the exercises throughout each chapter and the reflection questions. This would make a great book club read for educators or anyone who works with children or really, any groups of people that may have experienced trauma (e.g. everyone). You can pick and choose the chapters of your interest, and it does a good job of turning the question and judgment around without being shaming or attacking about it. Instead of seeing a child as a problem student, ask yourself: "How can [I] help this student to himself or herself as lovable and worthwhile, recognize his or her own potential, create opportunities to be successful and make academic gains?" Here, here!
Profile Image for Emerald.
298 reviews4 followers
November 13, 2021
It was an easy read and went very quickly. The author writes professionally but conversationally. I could focus pretty easily while reading this (whereas other textbook-type books make me daydream).

This just wasn’t what I was looking for. I was hoping for a book of strategies and examples. Something that could TEACH me how to help students that experience trauma.

Instead what I got was a book of educational philosophy.

- Take care of yourself in order to take care of students!
- You don’t know their entire story.
- Think before you act! Take a breath and step back!

Blah.blah.BLAH. It was “meh.” Reading her other book with Pete Hall as part of a 2 book study for my job and I hope the next one is more helpful.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 188 reviews

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