The brain is a social organ. It is shaped and nurtured by the environment in which it grows. Knowing this, it’s important for teachers and school administrators to recognize the close relationship between school climate and student achievement. Adult reassurance and support are important resources for children to draw upon as they strive for academic and social competence.
While they seem like small things, smiling and sustained eye contact are especially beneficial to children who are anxious, or who struggle with the hyper-arousal associated with early adversity. A teacher’s kindly gaze helps ground these children, and assure them that they are not alone. A smile conveys acknowledgement, and inclusion in the adult’s sphere of interest or importance.
Frequent use of children’s names, as well as formative assessments that survey children’s interests and beliefs, are other strategies teachers can use to strengthen their relationships with students. Positive affirmations, and encouragement toward specific goals, help foster a “can do” attitude that is often difficult for children with early trauma histories to acquire.
For more information about the relationship between smiling, adult reassurance, and healthy attachment check out these websites: