Warmth and kindness results in better learning

Thornton Creek 1st Grade Classroom | 05/23/2008 | 10:00 am - Noon |
Present: Mari Brockhaus, Mary, Parent Volunteer, Academic Assistant, 24
students, myself

This week at Thornton Creek I had the opportunity to witness a Math class in session. Students were working at their own pace out of a workbook while the classroom teacher, the student teacher, a parent volunteer and an Academic Assistant walked around ready to answer questions on a one-on-one basis. This week, I decided to take special note of the interactions between students and the adult that approached to help them. Not being within audible distance, my observations were almost completely visual.

I found after a half-hour of observing the classroom teacher and one of the parent volunteers that the students they were helping would often be smiling and more energetic after receiving help from them. The more closely I looked the more I came to conclude that this was likely a result of the warmth and safe space that these two adults were naturally creating for the students. To begin with, these adults chose to sit down and look the students in their eyes. They would then proceed to look them right in their face and greet them with a smile, as if to say that it was no big deal that they were stuck on a problem. The few times I was within hearing distance, I heard the parent volunteer ask the student what they thought were the next logical steps.

This being in contrast to an approach in which the adult gives the answers to the student. Often, I also noticed the adult engage in what looked like conversation not directly related to the problem. In turn, I saw students who at first had confused looks sit up taller, smile and even seem to have more energy in their actions during and towards the end of their interaction with these adults.

It is my conclusion that these caring adults were doing something far more significant and longer lasting than helping students solve Math problems. They were building their confidence in themselves, helping them learn how to learn than what to learn and creating a safe space in which they could revel in the joy of learning and discovery. Isn't that what all good teachers ought to be doing?

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