One Person Can Make a Difference

A drop of water falling in a puddle.

This post is part of a series that highlights themes and takeaways from ResearchILD’s 37th Annual Executive Function Conference: Executive Function & Social-Emotional Learning: Promoting Resilience, Stress Management, and Academic Success. 

ResearchILD’s 37th Annual Executive Function Conference brought together educators from across the globe to hear from speakers at the forefront of research on executive function, attention, and emotion. One theme was apparent across many presentations: One person, such as an encouraging mentor or supporter, can have an impact on a student’s sense of self-efficacy and success. Here’s what two of our speakers shared.

“One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” —John F. Kennedy

Nurturing Resilience through Micromoments

Dr. Robert Brooks, who kicked off the conference after Dr. Lynn Meltzer’s keynote presentation, shared ideas about how to nurture resilience in students during challenging times.

In order to help students cope effectively in the face of adversity, Dr. Brooks emphasizes that children need a “charismatic adult” from whom they can garner strength. Teachers, who often provide this role, must ensure that their students feel welcomed and supported at school before launching into the instruction of academics and executive function strategies. Dr. Brooks has investigated the impact that micromoments ↗(link opens in new tab/window) (microaffirmations and microaggressions), have on students’ well-being and the emotional culture of a classroom or school.

By fostering a sense of security and community, teachers can create a classroom context that empowers students. Morning meetings and homeroom times can include opportunities for building student mentorships so students feel heard. Dr. Brooks reminds us that it is crucial to build relationships with students and help them feel a sense of purpose, especially in the era of virtual learning.

Creating Sanctuary Classrooms

George Scott, Ed.S., LMFT, shared ways educators can create nurturing classrooms for students facing developmental trauma and toxic stressors.

Mr. Scott’s philosophy that “all adults have the power within them to improve the lives of children” drives his belief in the power of educators to be effective and transformative “minders” ↗ (link opens in new tab/window)of student well-being. Children look for calm, safety, and peace in sanctuary classrooms; when teachers soothe children during times of stress, children have higher feelings of security.

With decades of experience partnering with schools, Mr. Scott knows educators face intense demands in their jobs. However, he described that it is no longer possible to ignore the “inconvenient truth” that children are experiencing high levels of trauma and stress and that buffering kids from harm and creating sanctuary is a critical attribute. Mr. Scott believes it is an educator’s imperative in every interaction as a whole to influence how our students grow up so that they can manage the future.

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development: