Stress Relief Can Be the Key to Success in School from Scientific American

It's becoming more clear to me all the time that as educators we need to provide a safe container in order to facilitate learning for the students who are entrusted to us. It's not just a "nice thing to do" for the kids as more and more brain research is telling us that students cannot learn when they are under great stress. The prefrontal cortex which oversees executive functions is compromised when a person is under great stress and when this happens...learning does not. It seems to be just that simple. One solution is to make sure our classrooms are safe and comfortable places for students to inhabit. Reducing stress at our classroom doors is the first step to laying the foundation for learning to take place. Mindfulness training is the next...but more on that in another post.

Scientific American's article "Stress Relief Can Be the Key to Success in School" by Clancy Blair goes on to say, "An even more insidious effect [of stress] is the assault it can launch on a child's brain, impeding the development of critical cognitive skills. A number of researchers, including myself, have discovered that psychological stress affects the thinking skills and brain development of even very young children, likely beginning prenatally. It is no mystery that stress thrives in difficult situations, but research is now showing that a disadvantaged upbringing may set back children in profound, lasting ways. In fact, stress may be one important mechanism through which poverty adversely affects children's ability to perform well in school."

The article, of which only the preview is free, is well worth reading and thinking deeply about as we get ready to move back into our classrooms this fall.


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