Saturday, March 21, 2009


Creating a Safe and Nurturing Classroom

No one feels safe if there are sharks swimming in the vicinity. So what can we, as teachers do to create a safe and nurturing classroom environment?

A child comes to school naturally curious. The child’s first experiences at school can and should help foster this curiosity and love of learning. Only students that feel safe will be able to step out of their comfort zone and truly expand and grow emotionally and intellectually. As the teacher, you create the emotional and social climate of safety that makes your classroom a place for optimal learning. Here are some tips to promote your success in this area.

Make your expectations clear and well known to the students at the very beginning of the school year. Introduce, and then model examples of positive and negative behavior in various settings. Ask your students to explain why each behavior is or is not acceptable. Amazingly, they will give you spot on answers. When this occurs, you can model a positive and authentic response to their answer, such as: “Thank you Robert, that shows very good analysis.”

Next, you should have students partner up and practice each skill until it is mastered. While this is going on, you will observe the role-playing activity and consistently provide positive acknowledgement and feedback to the students.

In order to have even more “buy in,” from your students, always include them in the creation of the Classroom Expectations. This is, after all, their class. Students themselves will inevitably come up with behaviors consistent with your expectations. You and the students can work together on acceptable consequences. Throughout this process, focus on the purpose: Creating a Safe and Nurturing Classroom where everyone can and will exceed even their own expectations.

This sounds great, right? We’re not quite done yet. Remember, these are children and young adults. They love to test the limits; it’s in their DNA. The most important thing you can do is respond to misbehavior unemotionally, clearly and consistently. The classroom is the stage where you will prove or disprove your fairness and ability to keep the learning environment positive and safe.

Always focus on the positive. Bees are attracted to honey, and students are attracted to kudos (and I don’t mean the candy bar). Welcome students to your class every day. Use authentic verbal praise frequently. Give students and their parents written recognition, even for small achievements. When you see the entire class really improving on a task or a skill, celebrate!

A safe and nurturing classroom is created by predictability, and predictability is created by consistent behaviors. Finally, don’t be afraid to use your secret weapon, your personality. This is your most powerful teaching tool. You may very well be the only cheerleader in this child’s life; so use your voice, your smile, your kind words and your touch to make each child feel safe and important.
Now we’re ready to roll. Hmmm, where shall we start? Tune in for my Blog next Saturday!

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