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Five ways to build resilience in the classroom


Resilience is a person’s ability to face a difficult situation and bounce back. That doesn’t mean to say that resilient people won’t face challenges. Instead, building resilience trains a person to view adversity as obstacles that they can overcome.

So why do we need to be resilient? Generally speaking, building resilience creates a mindset where people can maintain or improve their mental health. It is particularly useful when helping pupils cope with the stress and anxiety of Covid-19 . It also encourages pupils to form better relationships with other students, gives them a strong sense of self, and develops their confidence.

In one survey , 83% of experts agree that building a child’s resilience could equip them with the skills and habits they need to maintain mental wellbeing into adulthood. Here are five ways you can help your students build their resilience.

Focus on strengths

Pupils often think about how they could be a better student, get better grades, be the best athlete or become the school’s top drama student. To build their resilience, encourage them to focus on their strengths instead.

Ask your students to think about what they are good at. Let them choose whether they draw a picture to express this, write an essay or simply write a list. The important part of this activity is that they focus on their own abilities, as this will help them to achieve a strong sense of self-worth.

Help students to develop social-emotional skills

Social-emotional learning is an approach to education where students are supported in developing self-awareness, social awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making and relationship skills. This can prove particularly useful for teachers who are helping students with learning loss and behavioural support .

SEL provides students with the tools they’ll need to cope with adversity, and it can be particularly powerful if it is taught to them from a young age. A survey of headteachers found that 99% agree that social-emotional skills can be taught in the classroom, and 68% believe they are instrumental in preparing students for the working world.

Coping mechanisms

When you’re preparing your student for mock exams , you get them ready for each possible question. They won’t come across every question in the exam, but you’ll have built their knowledge and given them the confidence that they can tackle whatever comes their way. The same approach should be taken to resilience. If you prepare your students for the difficult situations, then if - or when - they arise, they’ll have the tools they need to face them head-on.

Coping mechanisms that will help children of various ages build their resilience include:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Creating a routine
  • Playing with a classmate
  • Writing down one thing to be grateful for
  • Creating artwork
  • Using worry stones
  • Talking to a teacher

Developing coping mechanisms can also help teachers look after their wellbeing .

Label emotions

Regardless of whether you work as a primary teacher or secondary teacher, you’ll interact with students who have a hard time understanding their feelings. It’s difficult for children to build resilience and regulate challenging emotions if they can’t recognise why they are feeling a certain way.

One UCLA professor found that “affect labelling” – where a person simply labels a feeling – can reduce activity in the emotional centre of the brain . Teachers can choose from a number of emotion labelling worksheets , which help students begin to understand what the different emotions are. By giving the emotion a name, children are taking the first step towards processing their feelings.


Just as with coping mechanisms, training your students to have an action plan will mean they're ready to find a solution should they face any hurdles. When building resilience, the goal is to show your students they must accept challenges and focus their energy on how they react. By teaching children problem-solving techniques, you can help them recognise they can learn from all experiences, positive and negative.

Here are some steps to get your students to follow:

  • Write down the problem
  • Split the problem into bite-sized chunks
  • Focus on solving just one chunk at a time

Are you searching for your next teaching job?

Giving your pupils the support they need to build their resilience is one of the most important things you can do as a teacher. Resilience also happens to be one of the top supply teaching skills and an ability that all teachers will find useful throughout their career.

If you're ready to put these resilience-building techniques into action and are looking for your next job, we can help. View our primary teacher jobs , secondary teacher jobs , or browse our teaching jobs by subject.

Contact us today if you'd like to speak to a member of the team.

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