Building a resilient classroom to get students to feel safe and secure requires thoughtful and intentional action by educators. Our students come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. Even children from the same home may experience life events differently.
As educators, we become therapists for all the troubles our students bring into the room. We love and care for our students; here are a few ideas to help build a space for physical, emotional, and mental well-being. We'll look at each domain and action items to support your great work.
In the set up of the space of your classroom, there are many elements to consider. Some basics constraints are desk type(s), number of students, and the size of the room. Flexible seating options help build a fluid space if it's an option.
With these ideas in mind, think about the physical layout of your classroom:
1. Where does your direct teaching occur?
2. Where are your desks in relation to it?
3. Are there nosebleeds seats?
4. Who has front row, VIP seating that can see all the action?
5. Who has easiest access to supplies, materials, and anchor charts?
As educators, we want all students to be in the action and to have front row seats. Use multiple spaces and places for learning such as an open floor space near direct instruction to allow students to sit on the ground, sit on stools or chairs, or even stand near instruction.
Our goal is for students to be College & Career Ready (CCR) for the real world. We'll build spaces in our classroom that simulate real world, modern work environments.
To dive deeper about our classroom set-up and layouts for different grade levels and varying abilities, join our online course.
Our 3 Personal Standards empower our students to address their emotions by learning what they are, how to name them, and ways to express them.
We ask our students to show yourself respect: To take care of yourself, Make good decisions for yourself, and be an active Problem Solver (not just a problem identifier).
The teacher is the moderator and ultimate authority in the class to handle any major concerns that come up. It must be major otherwise we rely on our students to be the problem solvers and are trusted to handle healthy interactions which we facilitate early on in the year to build their skill sets.
We facilitate by building an emotionally safe space to express themselves and learn from each other in positive ways. Early in the year, we use Scouts (aka teacher assistants) during all instruction to model and teach positive interactions and compliments. When we build strong, positive bonds early between students, students are more relaxed and deal with frustrating situations in healthier ways.
Students earn Literacy Reinforcers for being problem solvers and showing themselves respect. It celebrates and encourages students to work things out. It's a great way to build self-confidence and self-esteem for all students (especially for reluctant students). You'll find you have more students participating once this strategy is used.
We recommend using a pocket chart for Literacy Reinforcers to help with managing them. It also helps the teacher know who's being positively reinforced and who needs support.
Keep in mind, positive reinforcement is quicker and longer lasting than negative reinforcement. It's a process that internalizes motivation and self-reliance without the need for someone watching all the time for them to do the right thing. They'll do the right thing because it feels good to do it.
To find ways to differentiate and expand socio-emotional growth strategies, join our online course.
Our classrooms have policies and structures in place to keep students protected. These include:
As a class, we'll include rules for walking, keeping chairs on the ground, and maintaining physical boundaries. We keep first aid kits at hand for minor cuts and tend to students when in need.
We recommend using T-Graphs for places around the school on best ways to stay safe in each unique space.
For more direct application of Maslow's Hierarchy of needs to classrooms, join our online course.
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