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Connection is the Cornerstone

March 2, 2021 | Zachary Licato

Humans are social creatures and have a deep biological and neurological need for interaction. Whenever you walk the hallways of our 4-8th grade school, the sounds of dancing, games, Zoom, music and laughs are still strong and plenty. It is an integral part of the overall learning environment. The positive relationships being formed in the children’s daily lives as they have fun, study and interact, play a vitally important role in students’ ability to learn, to cope, to grow. 

We’ve tried to absorb the lessons that this new environment has created. We adapted to new ways of teaching and we are discovering flexible, more innovative ways to use technology as creatively as possible. Teachers have designed new online individual and collaborative projects, videos, as well as small group work time to facilitate learning and to develop social and interactive skills.

However, one of the most essential parts of learning is the “in between” time, the time that allows children just to be children and enjoy each other’s company.

I asked my fellow teachers to give me examples of what they specifically do in their class to just enjoy time together, and feel personally connected with their students. Here are a few of their responses:

  • On Fridays during lunch we watch videos together as a class.
  • We have lively discussions about whatever topic students want to talk about during breaks.
  • We play a lot of games–card games, group games and partner games.
  • We play – What would you rather? We rotate partners to chat with and it really helps them make connections with each other at a low stakes and often funny level.
  • We make time each day for “lamenting” the things we’ve lost. 
  • We spend snack time laughing about ridiculous dreams.
  • We had a snowpeople building competition the other day. So much fun!
  • We play silent ball at the end of the day almost every day.

As we make space for students to feel a sense of belonging and normalcy, it is just as important that we as adults find ways to keep a balance and structure in the things that are within our control. When we are grounded and focused on controllable factors, we can better connect with others and ourselves. 

Some things we can all do at home:

Stay active – We need to keep ourselves and our children active. Focus on the act of physical activity, not necessarily the amount. It is more about consistency than duration. It also releases endorphins in our brain.

Adequate sleep: Good sleep is essential to our overall health.

Self-care: Take time to take care of yourself. Be supportive and suggest the same for those close to you. Meditation, relaxation, quality time with family, personal care of yourself promotes overall wellness. 

Cope with stress and anxiety: Positive coping mechanisms would include exercise, meditation, reading, further developing certain skills or hobbies etc. 

As your day progresses, think about where you can build-in healthy breaks. Continue to find time to live, love, and connect.


Zachary Licato

Teacher, Physical Education and Health; Learning Support (7th Grade)

Mr. Licato is a proud lifelong resident of Hudson County. In addition to teaching Physical Education at Mustard Seed, he also coaches the Weehawken High School varsity baseball team, the Weehawken HS varsity football team and the Weehawken HS girls’ varsity basketball team.

During his time as a high school student, he played varsity football, baseball, and basketball, lettering in all three sports.

Mr. Licato grew up in an artistic family: his mother is a writer, and his father is the Artistic Director of Hudson Theatre Works, a professional theatre company located in Weehawken.

His greatest passions are coaching and teaching, but he also enjoys reading, listening to music, exploring the wide cultural food palate of local restaurants, and traveling with his wife, Gina.

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