Create a Safe Climate for Learning
WHEN STUDENTS ARE FEELING ANXIOUS or fearful, they aren’t in the mood to learn. That’s because one part of the brain that processes emotions—the amygdala—responds to perceived threats by blocking information flow to the learning centers of the brain. In layman’s terms, stress scrambles the learning circuits. To understand more about how the brain responds to stress, read the Edutopia article “To Enable Learning, Put (Emotional) Safety First”.
Although educators can’t overcome every stressor in a child’s life, they can take practical steps to make the classroom environment more conducive to learning.
Veteran teacher Linda Lantieri, author of Building Emotional Intelligence, recommends concrete strategies to help students stay calm and learn to manage their sometimes tumultuous emotions. As she explains in an Edutopia interview, “The prefrontal cortex of the brain is the area for paying attention, calming, and focusing as well as the area for short- and long-term memory. So you need to focus in order to connect with your memory.”
Morning meetings, developmental discipline, and student leadership teams are among the strategies that can foster healthy social and emotional learning.
Learning environments that keep students highly engaged, that foster community and family connections, and that consider the needs of the whole child are the focus of a podcast by The Whole Child from ASCD. For more ideas, listen to “School Environments: Transforming Learning Spaces”.