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Connection: The Necessary Element to Learning at School

Building motivation to learn through relationship development 

When thinking about the many strategies that parents and teachers may implement to help kids transition into a new school year, developing a relationship with students should never be overlooked or underestimated!  

Take a look at this short 2-minute clip on the critical importance of developing the teacher and child relationship at school.

I’m sharing with you a beautiful clip of Emma, a 3rd grade student diagnosed with autism and her new educational assistant.  Emma had been experiencing a great deal of difficulty in her school setting the year before where she had begun to have episodes of prolonged inconsolable meltdowns, aggression towards others and towards herself. The school staff was at a loss as to how to help Emma or understand the root of the behavior. Their efforts to mediate were ineffective.  Sadly, this particular school board and region prohibited outside supports or observations. Consequently, the parents were very concerned and without the ability to support the school or gain further insight, this child’s parents decided to change her school setting in hopes of finding a better fit.  

The new school agreed to allow me to consult with them in developing greater understanding and communication between home and school in the very best interest of Emma. Therefore, a date was scheduled to observe Emma in her new school early in the school year to ensure that she started off the year in a positive way. We all knew that we had the important job of recreating positive school experiences after the prior year.  

Shortly after the morning bell and announcements, this creative professional exited the classroom with Emma for a “body break”. Typically, in schools the body break is offered once the child is reaching or tipped their threshold or during specific scheduled times regardless of whether the child needs it or not. However, it is unusual to begin the day with a break. I was intrigued and followed closely behind to see what this unusual event was about.  

This “outside of the box” thinking proved to be very regulating for the Emma during what was the very hardest transition of her day – moving from home to school. Taking the time to connect at the beginning of Emma’s day helped her to develop the trust and connection necessary which was critical to desire to learn from her new educational assistant. Positive memories were being encoded and strengthened each day! Emma was an equal participant in the engagement and so was the EA!  Note:  body breaks or sensory breaks that don’t involve guided co-participation should be carefully examined to see how they can be enriched with social opportunities to further support competency.

Later, when I asked this wonderful education assistant where the idea to start the day with a break originated from, she replied “It helps kids settle in and I’ve learned over time that I am far more successful in guiding kids who I have developed a positive relationship with”.   

Tyrone Howard, a professor of education at the University of California, Los Angeles, who is writing a book on the research about students’ relationships with their teachers and how well they learn says “I think schools in many ways have put the cart before the horse. What they’ve done is they want to jump right into academics and really dismiss or minimize the importance of relationships. These studies are important because they tell us that teacher-student relationships matter,” 

“Emotion and learning are completely connected.” Research shows that students who feel safe and supported by adults at school are better able to learn. This 2:33 minute video explains the importance of relationship, building trust and releasing Oxytocin.   

More great articles 

Relationships Matter More Than Rules at School 

6 Strategies to Building Better Student Relationships 

That’s a lesson we can all learn from and one worth sharing!  Parents and teachers, please feel free to share this blog and reach out to me if you have any questions, I’m happy to help.  

Lisa loves consulting and collaborating with schools to support students and also providing continued education for school staff during PD days.  For more information, contact Lisa at

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