Our PCN Focus Book for 2020-2021 Explores “Trauma-Invested Practices” for Fostering Resilient Learners

By Stoney M. Beavers
ABPC Assistant Director

If nothing else, the global pandemic has further confirmed the necessity for an increased awareness and practice of social and emotional skills at all levels – including with adult learners. For educators working in this arena, it has become abundantly clear that all of us must address these needs in order to reach higher levels of learning for our students and ourselves.

This past year, participants in ABPC’s Powerful Conversations Network dove deep into Fisher, Frey, and Smith’s All Learning is Social and Emotional: Helping Students Develop Essential Skills for the Classroom and Beyond. In the coming school year, we will be extending this work with a new text from Kristin Van Marter Souers and Pete Hall, Relationship, Responsibility, and Regulation: Trauma-Invested Practices for Fostering Resilient Learners (ASCD, 2019).

This book, which follows the authors’ award-winning Fostering Resilient Learners (ASCD, 2016), will provide us with even more concrete approaches for helping learners develop resiliency, and it would be difficult for anyone to argue the need for resiliency skills at this point in time.

One of the most intriguing ideas to me that has come out of the pandemic soundbites, is an observation that came from Michael Bungay Stanier’s podcast interview with Dr. Taryn Marie. Dr. Marie said that we should look at coming out of the pandemic as “bouncing forward” and not as bouncing back, and she discussed this as an important mindset for children and adults alike.

Even though we can never come back from any type of trauma or very stressful situation exactly as we were before, Dr. Marie argues that we really shouldn’t even try. We should be looking ahead, moving forward, and bouncing out farther along in our development with new skills and insights to take on the future.

This concept is at the crux of Relationship, Responsibility, and Regulation. It’s not simply about helping students work through issues; it’s more about helping them use their experiences to become stronger, more resilient learners.

Ensuring a Culture of Safety

In Part I (you can browse the table of contents here), the authors work on “Building the Nest.” Many of us have seen the “Maslow before Bloom” memes lately, and this is really what Souers and Hall are saying in their introduction. We have to ensure a “culture of safety” in our schools and professional learning areas before we can move to the learning.

Another interesting aspect of the introduction is their discussion about “Systems of Meaning” and how such systems shape everyone’s personal interpretation of future experiences. Souers reveals two important truths about these “systems”:

► We construct an explanation for children’s behaviors based on our own experiences.

► Our systems of meaning contribute mightily to the ongoing problems that exist in our education system. (p.32)

Most important, the authors share how relying on these personal systems can often short circuit our thinking and keep us from really listening and connecting with others. We judge everything based on our own experiences. Souers and Hall provide insight into better understanding the systems of meaning at play in our lives and how we can build self-awareness and use them more judiciously and productively.

The 3 R’s of Trauma-Invested Practice

In Part II, the authors dive into each of the new 3Rs: Relationship, Responsibility, and Regulation. They do this by first providing a definition, then “practice” ideas from Pete Hall, and finally by giving us scenarios from elementary, middle, and high school.

The three chapters in this section really focus on evidence-based strategies for helping our learners develop skills in these three areas. They sometimes shine the research spotlight on strategies that don’t work but are still used widely in many educational settings and then open doors to more evidence-based strategies that could really help learners grow in these areas.

When we look at every student behavior as “an expression of an unmet need,” as the authors suggest, it can really re-frame how we address these behaviors and how we approach our mission to help students develop better coping and self-regulation skills that will help them become happier, more successful and productive adults.

Finally, the authors do not leave out the needs of adult learners and educators, and they address us directly in the conclusion. Educators have not always been the best at self-care. Souers and Hall acknowledge this and offer tools and strategies to help us take care of ourselves so that we can continue to take care of others.

We hope that you will get a copy of Relationship, Responsibility, and Regulation soon and plan to join us for the 2020-2021 ABPC Powerful Conversations Network sessions. Until then, stay safe, and take care of yourself.