Before any student can fully commit himself to learning in a classroom, he must feel emotionally safe, secure, and confident in his environment. Unfortunately, not all children have a stable, positive, and secure life outside of school. Some may face family problems such as poverty, substance abuse, divorce, a lack of role models, ill family members, or physically unsafe neighborhoods. Other students may face more subtle problems at home, such as a lack of positive attention, a lack of personal space, perfectionist demands, or excessive punishments. For all of these reasons, it is imperative that teachers create nurturing, supportive, and stable learning environments where children can put aside their anxieties and fears and focus on learning and self-improvement.
What are the characteristics of an emotionally safe classroom?
Each child is treated with dignity, acceptance, and respect.
Each child has the right to be himself or herself.
Each student feels free to share concerns with his/her teacher, and the teacher is honest and straightforward with his or her students.
Student success is celebrated, and individual talents are recognized and lauded.
Students are free, within reason, to learn in their own way, to pursue special interests, and to make decisions regarding how to approach individual assignments.
The classroom is a community that values cooperation and support.
The classroom has a predicable schedule and rules are consistently enforced.
No one uses hurtful language, especially including offensive words and slurs.
No one is met with prejudice, including prejudge relating to race, culture, economic status, sex, sexual orientation, disability, neighborhood, academic ability, or athletic ability.
Harassment, bullying, and emotional abuse are not allowed in the classroom.
The teacher does not fall back on raising his voice, intimidation, or negative comments.
The teacher is a model of positive behavior for his or her students.
Regrettably, there is no magical formula for creating an emotionally safe classroom that ensures an optimal environment for student learning. Many believe the key is to make certain that each student feels his or her unique value and that each student recognizes the individual value of every other student in the classroom. Ridiculing students, using sarcasm, or treating students differently from each other will hinder this process, while the use of positive reinforcement, empathy, and understanding can foster a safe and secure environment.