20+ years of research out there tells us how we learn best. We now know that kids that are securely attached with their caregivers are primed for optimal development and learning. (Click here to read about secure attachment in an article by Dr. Laura Kastner). In other words, when kids feel safe and loved, they can learn and grow into capable, caring adults who thrive.
Shame and Fear – Learning Roadblocks
So why do we continue to see shame and intimidation used to scare kids into desired behavior? Maybe we use the old behaviorist models from the 1950’s as a crutch. (Think rats, rewards, and punishments). Maybe because time and again, threats and punishment do scare kids into stopping whatever they are doing that we don’t like. It’s convenient if all we want is well-behaved kids. But we can all agree that kids are in school to learn. And now we know that learning doesn’t happen when we are in the fight, flight, or freeze mode.
Follow the Research
In previous posts, I’ve shared how geeked out I’m over Dan Siegel books and videos. Louis Cozolino takes all that amazing research and shows teachers how to bring it into the classroom in his book, Attachment-Based Teaching, Creating a Tribal Classroom. From the book description:
Human brains are social, and a student’s ability to learn is deeply influenced by the quality of his or her attachment to teachers and peers. Secure attachment relationships not only ensure our overall well-being, but also optimize learning by enhancing motivation, regulating anxiety, and triggering neuroplasticity. This book presents a classroom model of secure attachment, exploring how teacher-student rapport is central to creating supportive, “tribal” classrooms and school communities.
There are teachers who intuitively know what is learned from the research in this book. They know that making a strong emotional connection with each student individually while building trust and strengthening bonds as a group provides a safe yet stimulating environment where kids learn best.
Hopefully every child will have the experience of being a part of such a classroom at least once in their school career. The kind of teacher that finds what is special about each kid and highlights their abilities. The kind that creates a caring, cohesive group where individuals contribute and collaborate toward a common group goal. We think of these teachers as being magical and we feel lucky when we get to be a part of their classroom community.
A Purposeful, Deliberate Approach
We don’t have to leave it up to a teacher’s intuition or our luck. Teachers can learn to teach this way. Education students can be introduced to the brain science behind the strategies and be shown how to create “tribal classrooms”. The most effective teachers seamlessly weave social and emotional learning into everything they do while maintaining high behavioral and academic expectations. When this becomes the norm rather than the exception, classrooms will start reflecting what brain research has been telling us for years.
A Fundamental Shift in How We Relate to Each Other
I absolutely love teaching and learning with Allies. But this is far bigger than me or the work we do. Attachment-based teaching will require a shift in the paradigm. Nothing short of a cultural revolution – really. Not another curriculum squeezed into an already jammed packed school day. Or an after school program that is only accessible for a few select kids. It requires a fundamental shift in how we relate to one another. So what do you say? You in?