Newsflash: Learning happens in the brain! And, brains need other brains to learn! Human brains do, at least, along with many other species, like fruit flies, elephants, and dolphins. In fact, every single person you’ll meet this February has a human brain that is seeking to learn and connect.
Practices Foster Connection and Learning
As Zaretta Hammond says, “relationships are the on-ramp to learning;” and, more and more research backs this up. For instance, oxytocin is a chemical in the brain that is associated with positive social relationships and feelings of trust and connectedness. Studies show that systems and practices that foster relationship-building within the classroom community increase oxytocin levels for all involved. Why is this important? Well, it’s because increased positive connections in educational environments result in deeper, more authentic learning.
Relationship-building practices that increase oxytocin aren’t just for the classroom, either. Adults who experience positive social connection among colleagues are better able to hear and act on constructive feedback, generally perform better in the workplace, and experience a host of beneficial physiological effects. We know this intuitively, and with new developments in the ability to study the living brain, scientists are able to produce more and more research to confirm how true it is.
Relationship Building Resources
Our February theme of relationship-building invites educational communities to establish and grow practices that foster trust, connection and learning. How do we do it? Together, of course! Check out these resources for some great ideas:
- The American Psychological Association published this article on the impact of improving student-teacher relationships on essential educational supports, as well as some modules and curricular materials to explore.
- Zaretta Hammond’s article on the Teaching Tolerance website discusses the crucial links between culturally responsive teaching and relationship building for each learner, inviting educators to grow into “warm demanders.” And, here are three easy ways to put it into practice!
- Edutopia has a rich library of classroom management practices that build connected, compassionate, educational environments.
- The University of Berkeley’s Greater Good posted this article on how to foster compassion in the workplace among adult employees; and, Leading Great Learning has this fantastic list of SEVENTEEN ways school leaders can take care of teachers!
How are you building relationships?
February traditionally is all about Valentine hearts; let’s raise the bar and launch a year-round campaign to increase heart-full, authentic, and connected learning communities in education. From a literal and physical perspective, February is American Heart Health Month – the one beating in your chest right now! Taking care of your heart means moving more, stressing less, and practicing intentional self-care and self-compassion. One way to do all of those healthy heart things is to cultivate positive, supportive relationships professionally and personally. February is also Black History Month; instead of just one month, let’s commit to creating welcoming, culturally-responsive educational environments where all students are truly seen, heard and respected all year long. What are you doing out there in the world to build positive relationships, boost oxytocin and be culturally responsive? Let us know in the comments! Or, tweet @austinisdsel using #AISDgot♥!