Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

First Advisor

Denisha Jones, Ph.D., J.D.


Connection and community can motivate children and adults to come to the classroom. These relationships can enhance learning in a number of ways. Not only do they bring joy, but they help children feel safe and a sense of belonging helping create an environment that is conducive to learning. A strong teacher-student relationship encourages and fosters learning. This connection is weakened when teachers use punishments, rewards and labels such as troublemaker that isolate students from the community. Community and connection can be fostered through true listening, reflective literature, story acting, open-ended play, and sharing with the community during circle time. Community and connection are fostered when the whole child is accepted including the child’s culture, background and interests. When a supportive classroom is in place and strong teacher-student connections are made, a child’s learning benefits. The social nature of learning is evident when children benefit from Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development. Both peers and teachers can expand, enrich and stretch a child’s thinking in a classroom of strong connections and community. Connection and Community create a classroom where children feel safe and where they feel they belong.