Creating a safe learning environment for students is a daunting task. Students not only need to feel physically safe in their school and classroom, but emotionally and intellectually safe as well. Students who feel safe and secure in their classroom are more likely to do well in school and graduate.
Designing a classroom and learning area that is environmentally safe should be relatively straight forward, and yet many dangers are easy to overlook until an accident occurs. The physical environment of the classroom depends on the age group being taught; educate yourself on the developmental abilities of your age group and plan accordingly. For example, sharp scissors are not appropriate in a preschool classroom, but are a necessity for the high school art room. Sharp utensils are necessary for a middle or high school biology class, but should be stored out of the way until they are needed to avoid any accidents. Teachers in a preschool classroom should avoid furniture with sharp edges, since some preschoolers are still developing their large motor skills, and may fall frequently. Also consider the individual students you are teaching. Students with behavioral problems or developmental disabilities may require alterations to their physical environment to ensure their safety. Do not hesitate to make changes to your classroom as necessary.
Creating a Welcoming Learning Environment
Students learn best when they feel safe and comfortable. Make students feel welcome by taking the time to get to know each of them. Be consistent in the way that you treat students so that they feel they can trust you. Promote a friendly atmosphere between students through group activities that foster respect for others. Do not allow students to laugh at or tease one another, and let students know that bullying is not tolerated. Ensure that your classroom is a place where students feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, experimenting with new ideas, and making the mistakes that are an inevitable part of the learning process.
Students need boundaries in order to feel safe and secure enough to explore the world around them. One way to set boundaries in the classroom is to create rules. Rules should dictate how students behave in the classroom and interact with peers. The rules you create will depend on the students you teach. However, the more simple and straighforward your rules, the more likely they will work, no matter the age group. Too many rules will overwhelm younger students, or make older students rebel. Whenever possible, engage students in the rule-making process; this makes students feel like a valued member of the classroom. Take time to explain classroom rules and the rationale behind them; students will not follow rules they feel are arbitrary. Make certain that the rules and the consequences for breaking them are clear and posted in the classroom.
Promoting Healthy Behaviors
Students who are physically healthy are better learners. Promote good health in your classroom by explaining to your students the importance of good nutrition and exercise. Whenever possible, get your students out of their seats and moving during lessons. Model a healthy lifestyle by staying fit and eating a healthy diet. Encourage your students to get plenty of rest, and communicate with parents how a healthy lifestyle can enhance academic achievement.
Helping Individual Students
It is important to form a relationship with your students so that you will know if a student needs help. If you notice that a student seems unhappy, depressed or angry, try to talk to that student, and contact parents if necessary. If a student displays behaviors or actions that are aggressive or otherwise disturbing, tell your principal and contact the appropriate personnel, such as police or counselors, as the situation demands. Every school should have guidelines for how to handle such situations; if your school does not, talk to your principal and school board to suggest that guidelines are put in place.
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