Teaching Resilience

Rippon's Student Services Team: How we teach resilience.

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Rippon's Approach to teaching Resilience.

Our Student Services team works with every grade level differently, and we approach every case with a variety of strategies to help resolve every crisis in a holistic manner. Although we all have different styles, we all investigate what's behind the behavior or crisis, rather than just investigating the incident. Building a rapport with every student that comes across our offices is essential in how we approach each case. Resiliency is a tool that we innately weave into each of our cases. We want to help the student resolve each situation, but we want to empower them to make changes via their personal effort. We want them to "own" their perspective and their decision making. Ultimately, our goal is to help them be resilient.

Rippon's Resilience Action Board

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If you can be Resilient, you can survive anything!

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The Director's Guide to Resiliency: It's all about the "Feels"

When a student is sent down to see me or requests to see me, the first thing I do is try to build rapport with that student. If I can get them to smile, I know that I have a greater chance to reach them. I begin each conversation with the usual..."you're not in trouble, but we need to talk about a situation."

Resiliency can be weaved into each case, but the key is to have student buy-in. They have to be able to look at their situation, and figure out if there was a better way of dealing with the crisis.

I always ask the following, (not necessarily in this order)

  • How have you been sleeping? What are your nighttime patterns? (I want to know if they are lacking significant sleep, or if they have an issue getting to bed). I also want to know if they are up using their phone, etc.
  • Who lives in your house?--this gives me a fuller picture on what their environment is like.
  • How is your relationship with your parent's partner (could be a step-parent, or significant other). Often times, I also find out more regarding a missing biological parent. Feelings begin to emerge regarding their parental relationships.
  • I ask about their siblings. If they are the oldest, then we normally will discuss what it's like to be the eldest in the family home. I get a better picture regarding their level of responsibilities at home.
  • I ask about their cultural background--where they born here or elsewhere?
  • I ask about their diet--did you eat breakfast? Do you normally eat lunch?
  • If it's a female student- I ask about their monthly cycle. We also discuss the various changes that their body is going through. We discuss briefly the ever changing hormones that invade our bodies at the most inopportune time.
  • With boys: I also discuss the changes in their body and how that impacts their emotional state.
  • I ask them about their teachers, who do they like, who do they not get along with?
  • We discuss the expectations of being a student.

Feelings---when are they ok? I have to analyze very quickly if they understand how their feelings play out in every situation.

  • Do they understand their levels of anger?
  • Do they know that it is completely ok and normal to be angry, and to feel whatever they feel on any given day?
  • Can they accept their own strengths and weaknesses?
  • Do they have self control?
  • What are their thinking patterns? Are they optimistic, or are they more prone to be negative?
  • Problem Solving? Do they know when they should be reaching out for help? Are they comfortable with adults?
  • Can they see a resolution to their crisis?
  • Can they figure it out on their own?
  • Can they recognize the other person's feelings--can them empathize?
  • Do they have remorse?
  • Can they set short term goals regarding their behavior?

Educator's Key to Resiliency Building: Where is your student on their path?

1. Build Rapport

2. Assess their level of emotional state: Are they able to discuss the situation, and process the incident?

3. Can you guide them to find the resolution to their situation?

4. Do they have a plan to modify their behavior if the same incident happens again? Is it realistic?

5. Can you formulate a small goal with them regarding future incidents?

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Resiliency and Hope

When we are able to get a better picture of where the student is then we have a better view on where their gaps are.

Resiliency looks different for each of our students. Their teenage survival guide has to be packed with hope and a desire to make changes.

If a student does not display feelings of hopefulness, then resiliency is more of a challenge for them.

So as educators, we need to do the following:

1. Meet the student where they are. Are they able to see the path that they are on?

2. Self-esteem: Where are they on the spectrum? Are they confident? Do they lack confidence?

3. Do they learn from their mistakes??

4. Do they have permission to make mistakes?

5. We have to teach students that life is all about making mistakes and learning from each situation.

6. Introduce the word "Hope" to them. Show them that there will always be different paths for them to take. Each one will have obstacles, but it's how they walk that path that will make a difference.

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A parent's guide to building resiliency with your child.

Middle School can be a very challenging time for families. Students are very astute, and they observe everything in their environment. They are picking up on social cues, and they are desperately trying to fit into their social circles.

Modeling peaceful and loving behavior is the key to having a sane environment.

Parents I have the key to eternal happiness and a sane home! It's a pretty easy concept: PICK YOUR BATTLES. It is a simple concept that takes the biggest restraint, but you will be happier in the end.

1. Pick your battles. Not everything your child does has to lead to arguments and chaos in the home.

2. Model the behavior you want in your child.

3. Stick to your "Word" They must be able to trust in everything you preach to them.

4. Talk to the about trivial things. Learn to just "nod" when they are speaking to you. Sometimes they just want you to listen to them.

5. Watch the amount of criticisms. If that's all they hear from you, they won't come to you to discuss anything.

6. Don't judge your child harshly. Don't compare them to another sibling or another child.

7. Words of Love will always end an argument in a much calmer place.

8. Ask them how they feel about things. Count on their opinion, even if you don't like it.

9. Don't stay mad for too long. Give each other enough room to reset.

10. Don't argue with them in the morning. It truly causes distress.

Tara Canada's Counseling Corner

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  1. Help students think about who is in their support network.
  2. Talk about other times when they were faced with a difficulty and what got them through.
  3. Discuss healthy coping strategies - taking a walk, keeping a journal, drawing, listening to music, playing sports, etc.
  4. Discuss importance of taking care of themselves - sleep, diet, healthy relationships.
  5. Talk about things they are looking forward to - helping them see that this moment is not all there is.
  6. Reminding them that everything they're feeling is ok, and normal.
  7. Resilience is about adjusting, coping, and continuing despite a current difficult situation.

Jeremy "Jake" Davison: A Counselor's View into the Future.

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Looking to the Future

As student's prepare for the transition to 9th grade, it is critical to get students to start planning for their academic futures.

1. Emphasize the importance of keeping their grades and behavior in good standing. This will allow them ample choice of high school programs that are available to them.

2. Students should begin focusing on their academic strengths and interests. What classes do they enjoy? What do they want to learn more about?

3. Reinforce the idea that it's OK to NOT BE PERFECT in all academic areas! This is critical to building resilience! Human nature means that we all have strengths and weaknesses.

4. Encourage students to build confidence by focusing on the academic areas where they are passionate and skilled. Different students have different learning styles as well. Many students benefit from pursuing CTE programs that are more kinesthetic and hands-on!

5. Have a plan in place for high school. Just like applying to colleges, students should be prepared for multiple options for high school. Students can choose up to 3 high schools to apply to in PWCS. Make sure students are emotionally prepared and excited about the possibilities of their 2nd or 3rd choices.

6. Start having students get involved around their schools and in their communities. By becoming involved in activities that they enjoy and are successful in, they will build social connections and self-esteem.

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Creating Healthy Relationships

1. Students start to learn the differences between what are healthy and unhealthy relationships in 8th grade. Having quality friendships and relationships can be critical to helping students navigate the difficult years ahead.

2. Students learn that relationships are built on honesty, trust, respect, and communication. They are NOT based on control, manipulation, anger, or dishonesty.

3. We reinforce with students that all relationships have conflict, but the goal should be to communicate their concerns and needs in a non-judgmental manner, and work towards a mutually agreed upon solution in a private setting.

4. Students are made aware of the many forms of relationship abuse. Understanding that abusive relationships can be verbal or emotional as well as physical is critical to protecting themselves.

5. While it is a hard lesson for students to learn, they are encouraged to let go of TOXIC relationships in their lives. Friendships that are always causing drama. Boyfriends/Girlfriends that are putting them down or are controlling.

6. High School is a great time for students to re-shape their peer group. To find people who encourage them, build them up, and share similar goals and interests!

Suzanne Rapcavage: Using Khan Academy with 6th graders

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Terrance Beason: The Psychologist's Overview of Resilience

  1. Resilience needs relationships, not uncompromising independence.
  2. Increase their exposure to people who care about them.
  3. Let them know that it’s okay to ask for help.
  4. Build their executive functioning.
  5. Encourage a regular mindfulness practice.
  6. Exercise: It Reorganizes and strengthens the brain to make it more resilient to stress.
  7. Build feelings of competence and a sense of mastery.
  8. Nurture optimism: Optimism has been found to be one of the key characteristics of resilient people.
  9. Teach them how to reframe. The ability to reframe challenges in ways that feel less threatening is linked to resilience.
  10. Model resiliency. Imitation is such a powerful way to learn.
  11. Facing fear – but with support. Facing fear is so empowering (within the limits of self-preservation of course – staying alive is also empowering) but to do this, they need the right support – as we all do.
  12. Encourage them to take safe, considered risks.
  13. Don’t rush to their rescue. Exposure to stressors and challenges that they can manage during childhood will help to ensure that they are more able to deal with stress during adulthood. Think of it like immunization-- A little bit of the pathogen, whether it's a virus or something stressful, help to build up resistance or protect against the more severe version.
  14. Meet them where they are. Resilience isn’t about never falling down. It’s about getting back up again, and there’s no hurry for this to happen.
  15. Nurture the growth mindset. Research has found that children who have a growth mindset – the belief that people have the potential to change – are more likely to show resilience when things get tough.
  16. Let them know that you trust their capacity to cope.
  17. Build their problem-solving toolbox: Self talk!
  18. Make time for creativity and play.
  19. Shhh....Let them talk!
  20. Try, ‘how’, not ‘why’.


As a school psychologist, I found it important to cultivate and develop my understanding of grief/loss among school-age students. After twice volunteering at the Comfort Zone Camp organization and experiencing their “therapeutic circles”, I became acquainted with their “handle me with care” tags, on which one essentially writes the things they might need to cope or handle stressful, anxiety-laden periods in their lives. On the other side, a student/child lists important ways others can help/aid in their management of stressful situations, related to their grief and loss.

Handle with Care Tags

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Victoria Sulyans: A Social Worker's Counseling Perspective

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Resilience: using activities that allow the student to have adaptability by finding new ways to handle problems when they are frustrated.

I talk about basic life skills with the students. For example, I have students that are in groups to play interactive games to gain life skills. By teaching life skills, the students gain skills like: conversation, communication, respecting others.

I like to promote conversations with students about being resilient.

Some key points students gain from resilient activities are:

  • Conversations are so important with others.
  • In groups, students learning to take turns, respecting each other.
  • Learning how to introduce themselves and present themselves to others. This teaches the students to take a risk by giving their input to the group and knowing they will be supported. I also teach the students how to support each other.
  • Teaching confidence skills.
  • Dealing with rejection.
  • Using techniques & activities that deal with emotions.
  • Problem solving—is very important (understanding their behavior and looking at other resolutions).
  • Using mindful activities also allows the student to think.

When a student comes to me with an issue or teacher comes to me saying help me with this student, it's important to give the student a personal voice of reflection—The student and I discuss the issue at hand, and his/hers approach in (making and learning from mistakes) and (Strategizing ways to anticipate and deal with stress).. *** This activity is good with the Emotionally disabled and ADHD students. ***

Special Thanks to Rippon's Student Services Team: Jeremy "Jake" Davison, Suzanne Rapcavage, Tara Canada, Victoria Sulyans, and Terrance Beason

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