91 The Importance of Building Relationships in the Science Classroom

August 10, 2021

If you have been teaching for a while, you know that relationships are important in the classroom. In fact, we have talked about it over and over on the podcast. So, in this episode, we decided to dive deeper into this concept. Let’s find out why it’s important to build relationships, especially in the science classroom.

Building Relationships is especially important in the science classroom.

The shifting expectations that come with the NGSS mean the science classroom is more challenging for students. The rigor is higher because students apply the knowledge they learn. Previously, students were mostly expected to answer knowledge-based questions without much application.

Often, high achieving students have the most difficult time with this shift. This happens because they know how to excel in a traditional classroom setting. You are changing the rules that they are familiar with, creating discomfort.

Also, many students perceive that they aren’t good at science. This is very similar to trends that we see in math courses. Students believe that they lack ability when this is not necessarily the case. Most often, students have this perception because they haven’t had adequate access to science education in lower grade levels.

The brain science behind building relationships.

Nicole discusses some of the things she learned by reading the book Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta L. Hammond. We highly recommend this book to dive deeper into the brain science behind building relationships in the classroom.

Our brains are constantly searching for 2 things: threats and relevance. This is one of the reasons that using phenomena in your lessons is so important. Phenomena make content relevant. To learn more about phenomena, click here.

Physical, social, and emotional threats are perceived by the brain in the same way. When any of these threats occur, the brain shuts down higher-order thinking in order to focus on survival. In contrast, when we feel safe, the body releases hormones that prevent a flight-or-fight response. Students are able to learn when they are in a relaxed state.

When people experience trauma, the mechanism that recognizes threats doesn’t work in the same way. For example, students with past trauma have difficulty determining when a threat is occurring. Therefore, they are more likely to perceive a situation as threatening.

Student’s struggle to learn when their basic needs aren’t being met.

Your students want to do the right thing in your class. They care about doing well. However, they aren’t always able to.

When students are demonstrating trouble with behavior, make sure that their basic needs are being met. When students are hungry, tired, or scared, they probably won’t be able to perform corrently in their classroom.

Develop strong relationships with students helps them feel secure. This also increases the likelyhood that they will communicate with you when they need something.

For example, a student may communicate that they are very tired when they have a good relationship with a teacher. This empowers the teacher to provide support. And, this furhter strengthens the relationship.