The transformative impact of good memories in learning spaces

Latha Gangadharan

When we reflect on our childhood, we realize that a considerable portion of it is spent in school. Considering the number of waking hours a child spends there, it becomes evident that teachers play a significant role in their lives. While the teacher’s role is primarily seen as that of imparting knowledge, their influence goes far beyond this. In fact, a teacher is often the most influential person in a child’s life, second only to parents.

We must acknowledge that a teacher’s role is not just that of imparting knowledge. It is crucial to be conscious of the fact that teachers have a profound impact on the child’s psyche. A teacher becomes a role model, nurturing a child’s dreams, curiosity, and understanding of the world. They contribute to the child’s self-perception and validate their worth. Teachers do this by creating emotionally validating learning spaces for their students.

Emotionally validating classrooms

Teachers should establish a supportive environment where students feel comfortable expressing their emotions without fear of judgment. By encouraging open communication, active listening, and empathy, teachers can create a nurturing space that allows students to share their thoughts and feelings freely.

It is important for teachers to validate students’ emotions. Acknowledging and accepting their emotions helps students understand that it is normal and acceptable to feel and express themselves. By demonstrating understanding and empathy, teachers communicate to students that their emotions are valid and significant.

Incorporating mindfulness practices in the classroom can further contribute to emotionally validating learning spaces. Introducing mindfulness exercises or relaxation techniques equip students with the tools to manage stress, build resilience and enhance their emotional well-being. These practices promote self-awareness and emotional regulation, creating a positive and validating classroom environment.

Lifelong effects of positive and negative memories in the learning experience

How does all of this culminate? It culminates in the creation of positive memories associated with the teacher. When we attend school, we are not merely seeking knowledge; we are also building a wealth of memories within ourselves. These memories from our learning experiences become ingrained in our psyche, even in our prime years. Hence, the focus of any educational environment should be to create not only knowledge but also positive memories. If a child’s learning experiences are filled with sadness and negativity,those memories will stay with them for a lifetime. Positive memories are instrumental in fostering various aspects of an individual’s growth and development. Cognitively, they enhance processes such as attention, retention, and recall, creating a solid foundation for knowledge acquisition and critical thinking. Moreover, positive memories can bolster self-esteem, motivation, and a sense of competence, empowering learners to overcome challenges and persevere in their educational journey. Conversely, negative memories can leave a deep and lasting impact on learners. Cognitively, they may hinder learning by generating anxiety, fear, or aversion towards certain subjects or educational environments. Emotionally, negative memories can erode self-confidence, leading to disengagement, demotivation, and decreased academic performance.  Therefore, it becomes crucial that teachers, as influencers in a child’s life, go beyond textbooks.

The learning environment, including the physical space and the atmosphere within, plays a vital role in shaping a child’s memories. To truly impact a child’s life positively, teachers must focus on creating emotionally validating learning spaces. It goes beyond infrastructure, wall colours, and material possessions. Can teachers make learning spaces emotionally enriching for children, where they feel validated for who they are as human beings? Can teachers create an abundance of positive memories that will form the canvas upon which children paint colourful pictures throughout their lives?

The author is the founder of TALC- The Alternative Learning Community, a learning environment which delivers what is expected from a school but by breaking free from the all shackles that schools today are tied down by. She can be reached at

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