This was what it was like when I was in primary school. Can any of you all relate?
When I was in elementary school, the desks were lined up in the traditional rows. Students stayed in their seats for most of the day and you dared not talk to anybody! Punishments were swift and sometimes quite severe. Well, we have come a long way since then.
Education and brain researchers concur: learning is social
If “learning is social” holds true in real world as well as the classroom, then as teachers, why would we insist that children sit quietly all day in traditional rows? Not only is it hard on little bodies to physically endure, but certain aspects of brain development may remain untapped.
The point is that children need to be able to brainstorm, discuss things with each other and share information and ideas. They need to move their bodies and their minds. To grow, they need to engage with each other and the world around them.
This is how ideas, brains, and bodies mature. Social interaction and cooperative learning skills are vital to emotional development. The child who learns how to share and cooperate with others will become an adult who can negotiate the complexities of work, home, and community life.
Socialization is a process of acquiring values and understanding
In the famous videos first made just after the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968, teacher Jane Elliott led a group of Iowa third graders through an anti-racism exercise, which became known as “the blue eyes and the brown eyes.” In the exercise (which you may have studied), she divided the class by eye color and told one group (blue eyes) they were superior to the other, reversing the roles on the second day so that the second group was now considered superior.
In addition to the lessons learned about race in this exercise, which has become the foundation for “diversity training,” astonishingly, the ones considered “superior” suddenly became able to do mathematical and reading problems that were beyond them before and got better grades on tests. When the roles were reversed, they became submissive, subservient and less able to do the classwork.
Dominance and submission, superiority and inferiority, confidence and shyness – all of these social issues play into both the whole group interactions in a classroom and individual achievement levels. Studies of families living in poverty, for example, show that there are cultural influences equating wealth with intelligence, which may or may not become determiners of an individual child’s abilities in school.
Other studies that can be helpful for a new teacher to research before entering the classroom for the first time examine the contexts and consequences of the teacher-student relationship.
Regardless if a teacher-student relationship is close or fraught with conflict, that relationship seems to both contribute to, and be an indicator of, a child’s adjustment to school.
When a student likes school, many studies show they get better grades
Often the degree of liking comes down to the relationship with the teacher. If students feel that their teacher likes them, they will tend to do better. If they feel liked by the other children in the classroom, they will feel far more secure and comfortable spending their day with the others. Part of your task as a teacher is to create and support a classroom attitude and atmosphere in which each child feels included – and liked!
Social interactions require “face time”
Students need to chat, to get to know each other, and to learn what the predictable consequences of various kinds of interactions are. Through social interaction, students learn how to avoid conflict, how to negotiate to get their needs met, and how to develop and maintain friendships and positive relationships.