Emotional Wellness And A Safe Classroom: What Can You Do?

The feeling of being safe is a prerequisite for students’ well-being, development, and learning. When students feel safe, they will have the energy and mental freedom to participate actively in class, acquire new knowledge, and work and socialize with others. It is in such an environment that students are not afraid to take risks, make mistakes and learn from them, and be creative.

The Importance Of A Safe And Positive Learning Environment

Research shows that a safe and positive learning environment that is both caring and constructive is crucial for students’ success and well-being. Safety is an essential element of an encouraging learning environment where they can take risks, make mistakes, and come up with creative solutions to problems. A safe environment also encourages students to talk about potential issues that they might be experiencing in school as well as challenges that they might be facing—whether academic, social, or emotional.

What Can You Do?

One of the most important factors in students feeling safe in school is their relationship with their teachers.   Listening and paying close attention to students are powerful tools for a teacher in creating a safe environment for students. As a teacher, make sure to create an inclusive school and classroom environment where all of your students feel welcome. Be sure to recognize that it is acceptable to make mistakes and that it is important to learn from them. Share with students stories of when you have made mistakes and how you dealt with and grew from them.  Make it clear that there is a no-tolerance policy in your classroom for hurtful words and behavior. Most importantly, make sure that other teachers, the administrators, and intervention teams are aware of students who show indicators of not feeling safe.  Establishing an environment where everyone feels safe and respected should be a team effort. Parents should also be notified and involved.

Here are some other ways that you can help your students feel emotionally safe at school:

Classroom Routines

  • Be approachable.   Let students know of the time during the class period when they can speak with you.  Schedule time daily for individual conversations while other students are busy with other activities such as reading or writing. 
  • Have a share out time when students can share a time when they made a mistake and acknowledge what they learned from it. Teach the students in the audience to finger snap, clap, or wave to show their appreciation.
  • Use cooperative groups to encourage participation.  Be intentional about placing students who show signs of not feeling safe with positive, inclusive students.

Classroom Ideas And Activities

  • Have every student identify one or two adults (it could be anyone from the teacher to the school nurse) to be their go-to person or safe adult in the building.   Have students write on an index card their names and who their safe adults are.  Remind students that if they are unsure who to pick, you would be happy to be their safe adult.
  • Teach students the difference between “tattling” (to get someone in trouble) and “telling” ( to get help for self or others).
  • Emphasize the importance of upstander behavior.  Reward students when you see such behavior.

Classroom Environment And Set Up

  • Be in the halls as often as possible monitoring student behaviors and paying attention to student conversations.   Students feel safer when they see adults in the halls.
  • Move around the room while teaching so that you can be aware of the energy and behaviors of your students.
  • Encourage the reporting of bullying and hurtful behavior.  Clearly post in your room information about how to report these behaviors.

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