• Aaron Daffern

Take CHARGE of the Classroom #2: Relationships

This is post #2 in a 20-post series designed to disrupt outdated behavior management models and help you create the classroom culture of your dreams. This post contains excerpts from my book Take CHARGE of the Classroom.

Children’s neurology is affected by the relationships they form with their teacher and other students (Bailey, 2015). Personal connections create the brain circuits responsible for such basic things as the formation of meaning. Relationships also affect the regulation of bodily states, the modulation of emotion, the ability to focus and sustain attention, the organization of memories, and the capacity for interpersonal communication.

Basically, relationships affect everything.

Positive, nurturing relationships, whether they be between students and parents or students and teachers, lay the groundwork and mental infrastructure for all learning activities. Without these support systems in place, trying to teach is as difficult as trying to run up a greased metal ramp in your socks.

Why is that?

Our brains have a hierarchy of needs that must be met for us to be open and receptive to new learning. First, we must feel safe. If there is an imminent threat to our safety, whether physical or psychological, our mental energy will be spent on finding safety rather than diving into the complexities of adding fractions with unlike denominators. Students don’t have time to learn when they are full of stress or fear.

More than that, though, is our need for connection. Once safety has been established, we must feel loved and connected to enter into a beneficial learning state. For our brains to develop fully, for us to enter into the sweet spot that lies between security and challenge, we must feel cared for. From this strong student-teacher partnership flows optimal brain development, academic success, emotional well-being, and the willingness to cooperate.

So why are relationships so important? Because nurturing, attuned alignment with others builds neural connections within the brain that literally wire it for willingness and impulse control.

Do you want your students to stop fighting every time you ask them to do something? Focus on deeper relationships.

Do you want your students to resist the urge to lash out at their peers when angry? Focus on deeper relationships.

Our brains are wired to connect, attune, resonate, and learn with each other. Only when children feel safe and loved can they begin to develop skills like setting and achieving goals, regulating themselves, and getting along with others. When children have positive interactions, their neural pathways are being strengthened for future success.

What can you do tomorrow?

Observe. Choose one of your troubled students to shadow for a week. Get to know him, learn his likes and dislikes, and even eat lunch with him.

Forge connections. Find ways to spend time with him outside of instruction and see how your relationship changes. Imagine a typical day through his eyes to gain a clearer picture of his world.

What does this look like in the classroom?

The teacher develops and maintains positive relationships that are reflected in:

· Social conversations between teacher and students;

· In