Teaching to Strengths – Supporting Students Living with Trauma, Violence, and Chronic Stress

Teaching to StrengthsDebbie Zacarian, Lourdes Alvarez-Ortiz and Judie Haynes have written an excellent guide for teachers and administrators that provides a rationale for a strengths-based approach, direction for teachers in their work in the classroom and strategies to support the school in its partnership with families and other community agencies.

In the first chapter, they incorporate research into positive psychology, positive youth development, neuroplasticity, and growth mindset to support the need for instructional practices to support our students.

The second chapter considers how educators can reflect on their own strengths, and then use these to support students and families living with trauma, violence, and chronic stress.

Chapters three and four focus on the classroom through teaching practices that connect academic learning to students’ personal, cultural, and world experiences while honouring what students bring to the classroom.  The practical nature of this advice, such as the critical importance of routines and predictability or the need for positive, affirming and energizing feedback, had me nodding my head in agreement.  Implementation of these within a classroom would benefit all students, not just those living with trauma, violence and stress.

Chapter five considers the families and guardians, and chapter six argues for a whole-school strengths-based approach and vision.

Whether you are a teacher hoping to make your classroom more responsive to the needs of your students, or an administrator looking to focus your work to meet all students’ needs, there’s something for you in this book.

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