Fostering Resilience for Science Learners!

Before We Begin…

It is inevitable that you will encounter students who are dealing with trauma. Unfortunately, it is just the reality of life.  Trauma comes in many sizes, shapes, and forms, and it is likely that “Forty-five percent of students had at least one ACE”, where an ACE is an adverse childhood experience that affects mental and physical health as adults (Souers pages 17 and 20).

This is as of 2016 when Kristen Souers wrote “Fostering Resilient Learners”, and this number may be even higher as families and children experience trauma related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While so many have trauma, these students are incredibly gifted and brilliant in their own individual ways. It is up to us if we uncover the learner in them, or if they fall into the cracks.

While nearly half of your students are likely to have some form of trauma, it is also important to know that you cannot know every detail about your students’ lives. Somebody, whether that is the student themselves, a parent, relative, friend, or even another teacher, would have to come and tell you those details. 

Even if every student were to come to you with details of their trauma, you as a single person cannot take all of that on! Teaching is a demanding profession and it is important to know your limits and ensure you are taking time for yourself to ensure you can care for your students when they do need you. You cannot pour from an empty cup.

Now that we have a basic idea about trauma in the classroom, how do we foster resilience in our students as science learners?

Regular Practices for Fostering Resiliency in the Classroom!

I would argue that the most essential piece in fostering resiliency in the classroom is practicing effective communication! Too often, teachers, and people in general, will listen, then they will respond and resolve. What more is there to it than that? It doesn’t seem too far off from what you do, right?

There are three more vital steps to effective communication that we tend to skip over. Here they are:

  • Listen
  • Reassure
  • Validate
  • Respond
  • Repair
  • Resolve

(Souers 79 and 80)

These six steps are outlined in Souers book on page 79 and 80, but I will detail the three we often miss again here. In steps two and three, it is essential to ensure the person knows that you think that their perspective and their feelings are important, and that they are valid and acknowledged. These two steps are often missed but take very little time to do.

After we respond, it is also essential to complete step 5, which is repair. Repair is even more often missed in the classroom, and that is simply acknowledging that something happened and working to ensure both parties have a clear understanding. This step ensures both the student and the teacher are on the same page and helps to prevent the upset from occurring again.

Modeling these steps in the classroom may be the only opportunity students have to see them! It helps students to develop as people with good communication skills as they go off into the world.

Other general practices in the classroom to foster resiliency are outlined on page 103 of Souers’ book! These include:

  • Assigned seating – this tells students that they belong there and that they have their own place in the classroom.
  • Posting pictures – posting pictures of students around the classroom helps students to feel more at home in the classroom. This can be a really great first week of school project, where students make a small poster about themselves with pictures on it to display around the classroom!
  • Notes/calls home – too often teachers send a note or call home in a negative context. Send them in a positive context, and much more frequently than in a negative context. Even simple emails or notes saying “your student did really well in class today!”, or “your student asked a brilliant question in class and we had a great discussion from it!”. These little notes home, which take you mere seconds to send or write, sends the message to your students that you see them and care about them, that they are important to your classroom!
  • Routines – having routine in the classroom, whatever that may look like for you, helps students to know exactly what to expect when they walk into the classroom! Some examples are in the graphic below!

(Souers 103)

Do you have more ideas about what to do day to day in the classroom to help make students feel at home and ready to learn? Leave a comment below!

How to make sure your cup isn’t empty!

I am sure that it is not a surprise to you that teaching is a demanding job. Teachers have a crazy amount of responsibilities and likely 150 students to teach and encourage and care for. The job is often not complete when the lights are off and the door is shut, as there is always something to make or plan or buy. But what about you?

You cannot pour from an empty cup. You cannot keep giving and giving to those around you if you never take time to recharge and refill your cup!

The “empty cup” is sometimes inevitable and will have you drained and wanting to hide in a storage closet. However, it is important to do what you can to t make sure that you are getting what you need, too!

Check out this video – Hank Green outlines some self care strategies as well as why self care is important at all!

Self care looks different for everybody. There is not a one size fits all self care strategy, which is frustrating when looking for something that works for you. Experiment, try several things, and find out what works for you!

Also, as Hank said, self care for one mood or situation might look different than for another. But it is still important to practice self care even when you feel happy and productive! Some of my favorite self care strategies are:

  • When I am overwhelmed or anxious
    • I often clean! I find that a clean space will help to clear my head and I an become productive again.
    • I also make lists. I am the type that needs to see all of the tasks out in front of me. This in and of itself is overwhelming, but it helps me to prioritize and chunk my tasks into smaller, less overwhelming lists.
    • I also just take a moment to remember to breathe. I also remind myself how little this seemingly large task actually matters! In 10 years, will this task be in your mind at all? The answer is likely no.
  • When I am feeling good
    • I love to paint my nails when I am feeling good already. It feels almost like a cherry on top of a good day.
    • Make/buy coffee! I survive on coffee, but when I feel that I could use an extra treat, I switch it up and have a latte or add some fun ingredients.
  • Always
    • I always make sure to sleep 7-8 hours. Sleep is not something I will sacrifice (unless a situation truly warrants it), because I cannot function and be of service to those around me unless I (literally) recharge my brain!

What are some of your go-to self care moves? How do you care for yourself to recharge for the next days and tasks ahead?

That is all for now, see you next time!


  1. Hi Michael, thanks for the comment! I think that trauma can come in so many forms and can affect students in several ways. I am not sure what exactly it would look like in students, simply because it can show up in many ways, but I do know that a lack of interest and motivation is common in the classroom now. I’m not sure if different is the correct term, but I do think that pandemic related trauma is more widespread among students.

  2. Hi Luke, thanks for the comment! I think that I would allow students to choose their seats eventually as long as it is beneficial to the class. This would come down to knowing the students, and ensuring that each of them feels comfortable doing this and knows that they do have a place in the classroom. I think though, as long as this and other strategies are successful, my students would be able to handle choosing their seating.

  3. Hey Nathan, Rachel, and Steve! I feel that you all asked similar questions, so I will answer them all together!
    I mentioned some of the ways I “recharge” in my blog post, and I think to share these with my students to encourage their own self care involves a lot of modeling and reflection. Teaching students how to care for themselves can be tricky, especially because the students are all unique and have their own set of needs. I think one way to do this in addition to modeling and being vulnerable with my students about the ways I care for myself, is to have them share the things that make them happy and feel recharged when they need it. Having them consider the ways that they already take care of themselves while also hearing the ways their peers use could give them more ideas for what to try to take care of themselves in whatever way they need.

  4. Hi McKenna,
    You have created an AWESOME post! It was an easy read that captured my attention. I think you brought forth many ideas that were crucial for the subject at hand. I like the video you added about self-care. I think this is important as educators as we can not give to our students if we can not even give to ourselves. Recharging our batteries and doing the things that we enjoy will help us be ready for the next day. A question I have for you is what is something you do to recharge your own batteries? This will be something you need to do as you become an educator.

  5. Hey McKenna!
    I really enjoyed reading your blog post and thought you did a great job at outlining ideas for how to take care of ourselves as teachers. I agree that getting sufficient sleep is something we need to practice now and as teachers later! Making lists is also a way that I can organize my anxious thoughts and take care of myself and my responsibilities. How do you think you could incorporate teaching your students similar self-care strategies?

  6. Hi McKenna!

    Absolutely loved this blog post! I think you did a really excellent job at highlighting the fact that trauma shouldn’t be viewed with deficit thinking. I also really thought it was eye-opening when you mentioned the increased instances of trauma due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Do you think that pandemic-related trauma differs at all from other forms?

  7. Hi Mckenna! I learned a lot from your blog post, and a lot of methods that I can use in the classroom. I especially liked the point you made about how you can’t pour from an empty cup. I agree that as teachers, we should take care of ourselves first. I love that you know what self-care routines work best for you. How can we help our students figure out what self-care methods work best for them?

  8. Hi McKenna!
    Really great blog, and I really enjoyed reading it! I appreciated your emphasis on focusing on the students strengths as opposed to their trauma, and seeing them for more than their trauma. I think the practical ways to encourage resilience were really helpful. I especially liked the assigned seating giving students a place they know they belong. I’ve never thought of it like that, but that is a really good way to frame assigned seating. Do you think that as you build your classroom culture, you could give students more freedom or choice in their seating, or would assigned seats be something you would want to maintain throughout the year?

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