Supporting Every Student's Mental Health, Well-Being and Achievement

The Essential Conditions for Learning

A triangle representing the "Essential Conditions for Learning" with tiered titles: Relationships, Feel Safe, Be Connected, Get Regulated, Learn

Schools are about learning in a safe and caring environment. For this to take place effectively, your child needs to feel safe, connected, and welcome. Your child, family, school staff, and the community have the right to expect that schools be safe and free of violence.

The triangle image centres on the Essential Conditions for Learning focusing on the values of safety, relationships, compassion, and a strength-based approach in all learning environments. Caring and consistent relationships between your child and school staff act as the foundation when creating a classroom where your child feels safe, connected, and regulated, and can participate in their learning. This is done by knowing your child, responding to their cues, and adjusting supports and interventions. When these strategies and practices are used within the classroom with the Essential Conditions for Learning, overall mental health and well-being is supported, allowing for your child to be available for learning. 


“Students …need supportive, accepting, and empathic relationships and environments to serve as the foundation to help them feel safe, connected, and regulated.” (Alexander, 2019, p.58)  


Consistent, caring student/staff relationships create a path for your child to access their learning brains. Research demonstrates that positive staff-student relationships — evidenced by staff members' reports of low conflict, a high degree of closeness and support, and little dependency — have been shown to support students' adjustment to school, academic achievement, and overall mental health and well-being.  

Educators and staff care about your child and want to support them in the best way possible. It is important to recognize that there is no single strategy or program that will resolve every need; people are just too complex for that. Caring and responsive relationships are the foundation of all learning, and ALL relationships are critical. As your child embarks and continues through the school year, the most important step as a system in building relationships is getting to know our learners. 

Feel Safe

Emotional safety is built through consistent, predictable, and nurturing interactions between staff and your child. If your child perceives a threat to their personal safety, the stress can affect their ability to be curious, engaged, and to learn. An emotionally safe classroom is where all children feel valued, supported, and affirmed. ​

In order to learn, students need to feel both safety TO and safety FROM.

  • Safety TO is important so that your child feels safe to be vulnerable and to express their identities, to take risks and to trust, to voice their opinions, and to make mistakes. School is the safe space for your child to express their authentic selves. ​
  • Safety FROM means safety from things like discrimination, aggression and bullying, and racism. Safety FROM means keeping your child safe from being targeted by others personally or socially, and to challenge systemic biases. 

Supporting Resources for the Condition of Safety

TVDSB Guidelines for Inclusive Learning Cultures: Supporting Trans and Gender Diverse Students & Staff - The goal of this document is to act as a guideline for supporting Trans and Gender Diverse students and staff. Any caregivers and families that still have questions or require further information after reading this guideline are invited to contact their school’s administrator or the Safe Schools System Principal.

View this document


TVDSB Draft Equity Action Plan - The Draft Equity Action Plan represents an initial step in TVDSB’s ongoing commitment to grow in our ability to address inequities in our system and barriers that impact students and staff. The voices of students, families, and community gathered through extensive consultation and dialogue in the coming months will be the driving force in charting the path forward. This document is a critical step in ensuring that safety is established for all students and staff within TVDSB.

View the Draft Equity Action Plan


Resources for Adults Wishing to Discuss Racism with Children

Wondering how to discuss race and racism with your child? Thames Valley District School Board's Equity portfolio invite you to visit the following page which highlights links to support Board employees and caregivers/families to navigate these important and timely conversations.

View the Anti-Black Racism webpage

Be Connected

People have a need to belong and be connected. When we feel excluded from social groups, our well-being is compromised, and our ability to think and problem-solve is undermined. 

When students feel connected, they will experience belonging, acceptance, and security. Their needs are valued and honored, differences are welcomed and celebrated, and every person is treated with dignity and respect. 

Quality connections are created and maintained using a variety of practices by staff (e.g., a warm smile). Every intentional and quality moment of connection strengthens students' sense of belonging, maintains feelings of safety, and promotes overall good mental health and well-being (adapted from Alexander, Tranter).

Get Regulated

How people respond to and regulate stress is influenced by genetic makeup, the quality of relationships and interactions, lived experiences, past and present adversity and/or trauma, and what is happening in their current surroundings. Specifically, the brain is wired to respond to our surroundings and interactions either with a sense of safety and openness, or with a sense danger or life threat. Your child’s lived experiences, past and present, coupled with new learning and challenging school experiences contributes to their stress and anxiety.   

Each child will vary widely in their ability to regulate in response to stress and anxiety. If their needs are unmet, this may lead to feeling unsafe, dysregulated, and unavailable for learning. School provides an opportunity to help students recognize their signs of stress, understand its impact, and develop successful coping strategies. 

Supporting Resources for the Condition of Get Regulated

We believe that by supporting the areas of overall mental health and well-being, students will be available to learn and achieve.

Please visit the Mental Health and Well-Being webpage to access information and resources on getting regulated for caregivers/families and students.


When staff intentionally focus on establishing relationships with your child using strategies that build safety, belonging, and regulation, they are creating the Essential Conditions for Learning. When “…school-based relationships are marked by genuine care, attunement, and reciprocity…all feel safe and secure enough to take the risks necessary for learning” (Alexander, 2019, p.66).

Supporting Resources for the Condition of Learn

Local Indigenous communities and TVDSB partners work together to provide an educational experience for Indigenous students through which their various needs are supported.

The ways in which we teach and support all students through curriculum across all subject areas will honour the rich histories, languages, and cultures of Indigenous people.

Visit the Indigenous Education webpage for more information.

Essential Conditions for Learning is a useful guide for creating a learning community where all students feel safe and supported to explore their interests, discover their strengths and realize their potential.  In this series of videos, we take an in-depth look at each of the essential conditions and share some of the brain research that supports using this approach in our schools.   

Video 1: Supporting Every Student's Mental Health, Well-Being and Achievement

We begin by exploring the importance of positive and supportive relationships between families and schools as the foundation for creating each of the essential conditions for learning.   We invite you to reflect on the information and how it applies to your child, your relationships with your child’s school, and how you might use this information to support your child’s learning at home.

Video 2: Feel Safe

An emotionally safe classroom is one where students feel comfortable to explore, take academic risks and create connections with others.  In this video, we describe what it means to feel safe, its importance to learning, and provide several examples of strategies educators might employ to foster a sense of safety.

Video 3: Be Connected Relationship Bank Accounts

Feeling connected helps students feel valued, welcome, and treated with dignity and respect.​  In this video, we use the analogy of an Emotional Bank Account to describe how intentional, positive relationship deposits make a strong impact on the connections between and among staff, students and families. 

Video 4: Get Regulated:  Understanding the Brain

Research shows that building and strengthening age-appropriate regulation skills is necessary for social-emotional well-being and academic engagement. In this video we introduce the stress ladder as a tool for understanding how the brain responds to a perceived or real threat to one’s safety, and how the stress response might be activated as we go about our daily routines. 

Video 5: Get Regulated:  The Stressed Brain Cannot Learn 

In this video, we introduce Dr. Dan Siegel’s Hand Model of the Brain as an additional tool for understanding how the brain works, the stress response, and a child’s capacity to engage in learning while dysregulated.  We describe what the stress response might sound like, feel like, and look like, and possible triggers at school and home. 

Video 6: Get Regulated: Misbehaviour or Stress Behaviour

Recognizing and naming the signs of dysregulation in a child helps us to be intentional in the strategies we use to support them to calm and once again feel safe.  In this video, we describe the difference between intentional misbehaviours and stress-related behaviours and use a scenario to explore what might be behind concerning behaviour we sometimes see in children.  

Video 7: Get Regulated and Learn:  Co-Regulation

When the behaviour we see in children is stress-related, brain science tells us that co-regulating with the child – or sharing our calm, is an effective way to provide guidance, and to teach age and stage-appropriate regulation skills.  In this video, we describe strategies for co-regulating with children in ways that help them return to a state of calm  and re-engage in their learning.

Video 8: Mental Health & Well-Being Information and Resources: Navigating TVDSB's Website


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