Friday, April 3, 2015

Creating A Safe Haven For Children

This month at #reflectiveteacher at +TeachThought we are reflecting and sharing our thoughts on Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire! This book is giving me lots to think about as I finish out this school year!

Rafe reminds us all of the importance of creating a safe haven for students. To create a space where students feel welcome and valued as individuals, where they have the freedom to express their opinion without fear of laughter, judgement, and finally where they are respected by instructor and classmates for the talents, thoughts and individual backgrounds and experiences.

As a teacher, this is a constant goal for me. And it can be especially challenging in the high school level with 14-18 year olds for whom school is not as exciting as it once used to be. How do I create a warm, fuzzy space for my students that they enjoy coming to every day?

1. Celebrate Birthdays- Each month I write down the names of all of the students that are celebrating birthdays on a big whiteboard that I prop up in the corner of the room. I mentally refer to each each day, remembering to recognize that student at the beginning of class time. Some of my classes like to sing, others not so much, so I go with the vibes of the particular class when wishing a student their Happy Birthday. I sometimes wonder if I am the only teacher that is wishing that student a happy day, and sometimes I think I am. For me, I don't think anyone should spend their birthday at work or at school without getting a caring "Happy Birthday" from someone.

2. Be a Dependable Teacher- For some of my students, I may be the only constant in their lives and the only person that they can or will reach out to. If my students can count on me to be there for them, to listen to them and to follow through on things, then I continue to build that level of trust and my relationship with them grows. All good things that lead to great classroom experiences and lots of smiles, laughter and learning! Technology has really allowed me to keep the conversations going with my students and provide them with a HELP! button to push at any hour of the day. Yes, I know that at times I need to detach from school life and take care of my personal life. BUT, we tell students that learning should not stop at the bell, so why should my support for my students stop at the bell as well?! I hope that the level of support that I give to my students helps to create that warm, fuzzy place for my students.

3. Practice Small Acts of Kindness- I know that I have said it 
before in previous posts here
It takes just a second! 
at #reflectiveteacher, but I keep coming back to it. Find some time in your day to tell one student 1 kind comment, 1 thing that you think will interest them, 1 thing you like about they did in class, or 1 question about something they are doing in another class. This is a quick and easy one in our very busy day! That is why I like it so much. Small thing to do, big reward
4. Believe in the "Mulligan"- In golf, a mulligan is a second chance to perform an action,
Everyone deserves a "mulligan"! 
usually after the first change went wrong through bad luck or a blunder. We all screw up, we all make mistakes. Some are small, some are very big. Our students are no different. They make mistakes. Some are small, some are very big. I have learned through the years that it is okay to give students a second chance at something. This is the human part of teaching- be kind and realize that students can and will screw up. Give them a second chance to right the wrong.
Many years ago, someone gave me a "mulligan" for a mistake that I made in my life and I am grateful for it every day. I believe in the power of paying it forward.

How do you create a warm, safe environment for students in your classroom? What are some goals you have to create a welcoming and productive environment for students?

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