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Why Reaching Learners Emotionally Matters More Than Anything

author: Lee Watanabe-Crockett

A child may sometimes forget what they’ve learned, but they will never forget how you made them feel. About you, about themselves, and about life. That’s why, as a teacher, reaching learners emotionally matters above all else.

Think back for a minute to your own school experiences. When were you most engaged in learning? At what times did you feel like what you were hearing and talking about truly mattered? What was it about your classroom learning that impacted you most? Can you pinpoint those precise moments where you connected with the topics on far more than a base intellectual level?

If you can, and are able to recreate those moments with your own flair, you’ve come a long way in reaching learners emotionally just as you were reached back then. That’s when the real learning happens.


Context and Relevance in Learning

Connection and relevance occur when we stimulate an emotional response with our teaching. Learners can be inspired, excited, curious, happy or outraged as the result of a provocation, which as the word means, provokes a response. It is these emotional connections that are essential to learning.

Don’t underestimate or interpret reaching learners emotionally as either a trend or an indulgence. After all, creating this emotional connection might seem challenging, but research demonstrates that doing so is well worth your time as it significantly increases learning and academic performance.

Connection and relevance occur when we stimulate an emotional response with our teaching.

However, there is something else to consider according to Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, an educator and Professor of Psychology at the Brain and Creativity Institute. She discusses the paramount importance of instructional practices being geared toward reaching learners emotionally in her book Emotions, Learning and the Brain. In her writing she makes a striking statement worth considering: that it is “literally neurobiologically impossible to think deeply about things that you don’t care about.” ((Immordino-Yang, 2015)

In other words, without an emotional connection, learning doesn’t happen. Since one of our goals as teachers is to try and get kids excited about learning, ensuring emotional connection is a priority makes perfect sense.

 Lee Watanabe-Crockett | May 31, 2018 2012