Ever since a landmark study in the late 1990s (see Felitti and Anda, et al), we’ve become more and more aware of the prevalence and consequences of Adverse Childhood Experiences, also known as ACEs. The original list of studied events has grown from 10 (including abuse, neglect, and “household dysfunction” like having an incarcerated parent or the presence of mental illness in the home) and now accounts for having a parent deployed, living in a war zone, being a victim of bullying, witnessing violence, and any of a host of other debilitating, not-OK experiences that we collectively refer to as childhood trauma.

Because we cannot stop trauma from happening, we must focus our attention and energy on something we can influence: the setting in which our students spend a tremendous amount of their time. A foundational characteristic of a positive, productive classroom setting is the establishment of a Culture of Safety – what we refer to fondly as “the nest.”

Not only must our students be safe, they must feel safe.

Our charge, as adults and professionals, is to help our young people to build the resilience needed for them to access the cortex (the “upstairs” part of the brain where we think, reason, and make sense of the world), so they can respond to even the most impactful events with understanding, patience, and rational behaviors – helping them to distinguish between danger and the perception of danger.

I’ve partnered with Kristin Souers, a licensed mental health counselor, to support educators (and other caregivers in the many fields that care for kids, including parents) in creating a Culture of Safety, building strong relationships, and providing essential interventions to address our students’ varied unmet needs. Read more about a Culture of Safety here: https://www.fosteringresilientlearners.org/blog.

Also, join us in Austin on March 22-23 for our 2nd International Trauma-Invested Institute for Fostering Resilient Learners. Bring a team and gather strategies, inspiration, and access to our 8 speaker-experts over this incredible 2-day event. For registration info, visit https://www.fosteringresilientlearners.org/institutes-austin


Pete Hall, a former school principal, teamed with Kristin Souers, a licensed mental health counselor, to write Fostering Resilient Learners (ASCD, 2016) and Relationships, Responsibility, and Regulation (ASCD, 2019). You can contact him via email at PeteHall@EducationHall.com and follow him on Twitter: @EducationHall.