Every year, I don my hot pink heels and present a “Back to School Night” PowerPoint to a pleasant-enough and semi- polite* group of parents. On slide nine of Welcome Back to School I share that one of my primary expectations is for their teenage sons and daughters to feel emotionally safe when they come in to my classroom. And every year I tell myself that this foundational element of learning warrants more than a one-liner projected on a screen.
*about half are glued to their smartphones.
Safe spaces and more recently used, brave spaces are hot-topic catch phrases in professional development educational settings. What a safe space looks like can be unique to every teacher. To “operationalize” what it means to me, I wrote the following blurb inspired by Establishing Safe Spaces for Learning: Preventing Bullying and Discrimination in U.S. Schools; a course taught by the fabulous HGSE professor, Gretchen Brion-Meisels…
a safe space is a physical environment where students do not feel scared or uncomfortable to attend on a daily basis. It is a place where students want to positively participate in the educational community and share their viewpoints without being judged, even if their perspectives are different than someone else’s, including their teacher’s. It is a place where students feel emotionally and physically safe in their classrooms. Peers and teachers do not negatively interfere with an individual’s learning, identity development or personal well-being.
In order for students to open up and engage with their teachers about cyberbullying, sexting and the dark side of social media, they need to consistently feel a sense of trust in a non-judgmental learning environment. Furthermore, teachers need to know what students are talking about. This simply stated, powerful piece of advice was given by a senior from the Crossroads for Kids panel. A group of five super self-aware teenagers shared their personal stories about living in their media-saturated worlds to our class of current and future educators. Their insights inspired my safe space snapshot below, highlighting three simple ways to create safe spaces for teenagers to talk about heavy, deep & reals…
Tip #1: build relationships with your students
Tip #2: be informed for your students
Tip #3: learn from your students
I am excited to explore Tip #1 in my next post. Please feel free to share your safe space snapshot in the comments section below…I look forward to learning from you.
Talk soon, Erika