Smiling boy

Hugs and Smiles: How Relationships with Teachers Help Students Become Healthy and Happy

In How Learning Happens, a video series created by Edutopia, educators can discover various teaching practices rooted in “the science of learning and human development.”

In one such video, titled “The Power of Relationships in Schools,” educators discuss how strong relationships with students are central to the learning process. Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, President and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute, explains that, through the science of learning and development, educators know that “we need to create learning environments which allow for strong, long-term relationships for children to become attached to school and to adults and other children [in school.]” The video goes on to say that healthy attachment helps build safe environment “that fosters risk-taking and exploration, which drives learning.”

Delving into the science of the matter, Dr. Pamela Cantor, founder and Senior Science Advisor of Turnaround for Children, explains that oxytocin, a hormone that positively affects brain development, is released when children are exposed to “closeness and consistency and trust.” But such attachment is not found in mere conversation: “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.”

In the video, some teachers develop these healthy attachments through individualized morning greetings, discussing community news and events, and attempting to understand students as individuals with values, beliefs, and background.

One such teacher seeks to “validate [student] presence in the building,” by making connections, smiling or joking with her students. Another teacher believes that honesty and transparency fosters connection: “Being vulnerable and showing your authentic self strengthens bonds with students.”

Educators share their stories of connection in this brief video. Please find the video here.

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TWIN-CS advances the Catholic tradition of academic excellence by empowering Catholic schools to systematically transform from a monolingual to multilingual educational model in the service of vibrant culturally diverse populations.

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