Positive Relationships are Critical for Students to Succeed at School


Teacher: You had so much to offer yesterday. You okay?

Aiden: I'm tired.

Teacher: So what's going on?

Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond: Strong relationships are central to the learning process. 

What the science of learning and development tells us is that we need to create learning environments, which allow for strong, long-term relationships for children to become attached to school and to the adults and other children in it.


Dr. Pamela Cantor: When children have experiences of closeness and consistency and trust, oxytocin is released. And oxytocin has many, many positive effects on the development of the brain. So when we think about a relationship, we're not just talking about being nice to a child. We're talking about a child having an experience of attunement and trust strong enough to release the hormone oxytocin. 

Falon Turner: Good morning, Ariella! How are you doing today?

The purpose of the morning greeting is to connect with them and to just make sure that I'm seeing them as humans. Like I'm making that relationship with them, making that bond. 

Catherine Paul: I prioritize relationship building, because getting to know them is the best part of the job.

Salma: When I come in in the morning, we usually talk about things that are happening in our community.

Catherine Paul: We're trying to build caring and respect.

Salma: Teacher is trying to understand who I am, and my values as a person.

Kirsten McWilliams: When I have a free 45 minutes or an hour, I think to myself I could sit down and catch up on grading, or I could go and make connections, whether it's a smile, or a joke, or a reminder that validates their presence in the building. 

Lindsey Minder: Rock it out in the art room. 

It starts from so much honest and transparency with kids. It's really easy to strive to be this like idealized, always ready to go, elementary school teacher. And that's not real, and that's not human. 

When people start talking about other things while I'm still giving direction, it feels frustrating for me, and I have to take a breath. [deep breath]

My students connect most with me when they see that I also struggle, and I also have challenges. It takes a lot of vulnerability on my part.

Bobby Shaddox: When that student knows that you care about them, when they know that you're a human, their academic performance in your class is going to be better. 

Cassidy: If I'm comfortable around them then I'm more confident around them, and it's easier to ask questions and things like that.

Teacher: So when you're looking at this graph, what is it that you think happened?

Aiden: Some teachers I don't always get along with the best. So at times, I'm like, "I can't do it!" So I'm just not going to do it. But when I like the teacher, I want to do their work. And I'll be like, "I can learn this." 

Teacher: You all have done outstanding work.

Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond: Emotion and learning are completely connected.

Teacher:  There again!

Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond: If you're in a positive emotional space, if you feel good about yourself, your teacher. That actually opens up the opportunity for more learning.

Teacher: Good to see you.

Student: Today, uhm.

Credit: Edutopia

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