Our brains are busy bodies. They are continuously gathering, categorizing and reacting to input from all our sensing organs simultaneously. Below our level of awareness our brains ask two questions of every data bit - will it harm me or will it help me?
We're usually unaware of this continuously running underlying analysis until, for example, we're out hiking and suddenly our bodies startle at the sight of a curvy stick our brain instantaneously categorized as "snake-shaped" or we overhear a phrase of music while in full conversation at a restaurant and our brain spontaneously created the image of a happily remembered vacation spot. Our brain is adamant about protecting and nourishing its carrying case.
Kids' brains analyze every bit of incoming data the same way: will it harm me or help me? A sense of harm produces varying amounts of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline which divert oxygen-rich blood from thinking areas of the brain to the reaction areas. Run away!
Sensing helpfulness, trust or doable challenges, brains produce the feel-good hormones dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins. Protect-from-harm hormones narrow learning capacity in exchange for immediate survival while feel good hormones open learning capacity for future benefit because it's safe to do so.
Actions and attitudes that either open or narrow learning capacity:
Schools such as The Innovation School, where kindness, consideration and mutual respect are as evident in the curriculum and environment as math and reading, have the effect of opening wide the almost unlimited capacity for learning and productive application of that learning in every child.