Science Learning and Resilience

Maxwell Wissman

It is inevitable that when teaching science, you will run into students who have experienced trauma. While undoing these traumatic experiences for students is impossible, it is crucial that you as their teacher put them in a position to still learn despite that trauma. Creating resilience in your students can help them allow trauma to not define them in the classroom.

The Power of Relationship –

In her book on trauma in the classroom, Kristin Sours writes, “Trust is a fundamental part of a healthy relationship. A healthy relationship, in turn, is an instrumental aspect of feeling safe – and a sense of safety enables students who have experienced trauma to stay regulated.” The message here is that as a teacher, it is imperative to develop personal connections with you students. By connecting to students’ interests, personalities, and lives outside of the classroom you build rapport and trust with each kid. As that trust grows, so does their sense of safety and belonging. At the end of the day, this sense of safety and belonging can be your biggest tool in creating learners resilient to whatever trauma they face outside of school and help them to focus on learning and growing as a person within it.

When in Doubt, Take a Breath – 

A quote from Victor Frankl is shared in Kristin Sour’s book that applies very directly to working with students who may have had traumatic experiences: “Between stimulus and response there is a space, and in that space lies our power and freedom.” When students are distracted, acting disrespectful, are unmotivated, or angry, there is a space for us teachers to decide what to do. It is important to calmly and thoughtfully make decisions about how to react to these behaviors, after all we do not know what else the student may be going through in life. By taking more time to think before reacting, we can increase the likelihood of a beneficial outcome for the student, the teacher, and the entire classroom.

The Self-Care Challenge – 

Teachers in the modern education system have a lot of responsibilities. At times we are simply educators, but at times we are also caregivers. It is important that while negotiating these duties we also care for ourselves. Sours writes, “It’s time to take ourselves off the shelf. How can we expect students and families we work with to be healthy if we can’t commit to our own wellness? It’s true that genuine, sustained self care is an art.” The importance of this quote comes in the question the author poses. If we cannot take care of ourselves, caring for the complex needs of students and their families becomes impossible. Fostering resilience to trauma in others is incredibly difficult if we ourselves are facing personal challenges.

Behind the scenes of Fostering Resilient Learners, the source text

This Facebook group is for educators who wish to become more trauma informed. It is public and available to anyone who wishes to use it.


  1. Hi Max, great post. I really enjoyed reading what you had to say. I think it is very important for educators to help students feel safe in their classrooms. It is also a good idea to make personal connections with the students to do so. I think it is a great idea that we as educators should also take care of ourselves and reflect on our own behaviors and emotions. How might you go about self-care and self-reflection for you and your students?

    • I think for me it will be crucial to just take time for myself whenever I need it. There may be times where I have to make decisions between my teaching job and self care, and it will be crucial for me to strike the right balance so I don’t become burnt out or pessimistic. For my students, I will try and build in self reflection activities with open ended questions to help get students thinking.

  2. Hey Max, I loved reading your post. I was excited to read about your take on the power of relationships within the classroom. Building these relationships with students will provide support to students who are dealing with traumatic experiences. What are a few ways that you would implement in your classroom to help you build these vital relationships with your students?

    • I think the biggest way to start building relationships with students is to connect with their interests. If you know a student is involved in a certain activity or likes a certain piece of pop culture, bring that up with them and start to build rapport. From there, you will have a foot in the door with the students and can begin to connect on a deeper level with them.

  3. Hey Max! I really enjoyed getting to read your reflection on Foster Resilient Learners and seeing what strategies you may plan to implement in your own classroom. When you mentioned the importance of taking a step back and taking a breath, it really stood out to me. As teachers, sometimes it can be easy to for others to forget that we are humans too and more than just our jobs. Can you think of a particular situation in which this strategy would be good for? Thank you, great post!

    • I think the most obvious example of a situation where this strategy could be used is if a student is giving the teacher a hard time by not doing work or moving about the classroom constantly. Instead of bursting out at the student, the teacher would be better off remaining calm, pausing and assessing the situation, and then reacting.

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