One of the things touched on in Grey Matters is the impact of stress on learning. Keep in mind, all stress is not equal. The stress of a kid not having their favorite cereal versus hoping there’s something to have for breakfast this morning. Or the stress of not finding their new jeans versus hoping there are clean clothes. It’s an omnipresent stress. If a student is stressed, they’re not focused on learning. Research has found stress physically changes the brain, shrinking the hippocampus, which plays a key role in memory.
Dr.Mariale Hardiman, author of the book, “The Brain Targeted Teaching Model for the 21st Century School,” the basis of Grey Matters, discusses stress and learning in Brain Target 1 - establishing the emotional component for learning. When a teacher prioritizes establishing a positive emotional classroom climate and striving to connect with their students, it “broadens cognitive associations and results in better performance on creative thinking measures” (Fredrickson B.L.)
So what does this look like in a classroom, when a teacher understands how severely stress impacts on learning? Jeremy Mettler, a high school teacher at Batavia High School, a rustbelt city in upstate New York, aims to eliminate the barriers to learning in his classroom. “I keep pens, pencils, snacks, and water in his classroom. It’s there. They know where it is. If they need something printed, I can do that. I want them to know that I care. Because when they know I care about them, I can get them to go so much further in my classroom.
For Vicky Krug, a developmental education professor at Westmoreland County Community College, it’s a tougher crowd. Students in her classes arrive angry, because they’ve tested, and unfairly they feel, into her class. For Krug, when she was a student, the most important thing to her was knowing that she mattered and she wants her students to know they matter. Despite feeling like they’re starting their college career off at a disadvantage.
Hardiman’s book quotes research studies that show “students who report having personal connections with adults in school have stronger academic performance (WIlson, 2004), attendance (Croninger and Lee, 2001), and school completion rates (Connell, Halpern-Felsher, Clifford, Crichlow, & Usinger, 1995; Finn & Rock, 1997). They are also less likely to engage in disruptive behavior and violence in school (Goodenow, 1993; Lonczak, Abbott, Hawkins, Kosterman, & Catalano, 2002).
If you want your students to care about learning, let them know they matter.
Show your students, you care about them.
Yours in learning and filmmaking.