The importance of building safe learning environments for your learners is something that cannot be overstated. While it's true that every student learns a bit differently from the next, the environment itself plays a significant role in their development. Safe learning environments translate into comfortable learning environments. They are places where learners feel at home.
In surroundings where students are willing to open their minds and actually listen to what you have to say, you can empower them to achieve their highest potential.
The key to achieving this goal will require you to keep a few important things in mind.
It's About Students
In your quest to foster safe learning environments, your biggest ally along the way will be your learners themselves. Are your students feeling uneasy about the environment that you've already created? Your first step should be to ask them what you could be doing to help them:
- Are you moving from one lesson to another too quickly? Too slowly?
- Are they disengaged from one particular topic?
- Do they like to work by themselves or are they more comfortable breaking down into teams?
No question is too small to ask and no topic should be off the table. Take steps to change yourself to fit in with how they want to learn first and foremost.
Work on Yourself as an Educator
You can create safe learning environments for children if you also lead by example. If you show kids how important kindness is by taking every opportunity to be kind yourself, they will follow. The reverse is also true, however.
If you're quick to lose your temper, this will set a negative example that will eventually become hard to break from.
Show your students that you yourself are comfortable in the environment that you've created. Then before you know it they will begin to grow more at ease themselves.
One of the major benefits of safe learning environments is that students will begin to take pride in their work and in themselves. One of the best ways to help your kids along on this goal is to skip right to the end result and celebrate their achievements as they are happening.
By celebrating all students, you foster an open environment filled with happiness and creativity.
If a student writes a particular essay you're really impressed with, read it out loud for everyone else to hear. If a student draws a particularly striking image, post it in public so everyone else can enjoy it. The student may not be comfortable with this, though. As such, they'll feel a sense of trust if you ask them first.
Build a Judgment-Free Zone
If you ask most adults why they're afraid of public speaking, one of the most common answers that you will get is that they're afraid of being judged. The same concept is true of young students.
If they feel like any time they open their mouth to answer a question they might get judged negatively by their peers, they will stop opening themselves up.
To combat this, you need to go out of your way to create an environment free from judgment. Let them know that differing opinions are a great thing and that being "wrong" isn't a bad thing. Remind them that failure is a learning experience. Even something as simple as this will put you on your way to creating the safe learning environments your kids always dreamed of.
THE SAFE LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS CHECKLIST
Here is a quick list of some suggestions and tips to help you out:
- Keep a clean and orderly classroom.
- Allow students to be openly expressive and encouraging to others.
- Celebrate student work in different ways.
- Create a list of guidelines that are "law" (ex: no name-calling, bullying, etc.)
- Stay calm and in control always.
- Practice useful failure and turn mistakes into learning opportunities.
- Model kindness every chance you get.
- Move around and interact with students, and create a connection.
- Be patient and smile.
- Feel free to laugh with your students and be vulnerable.
- Give kids choices on how they can do assignments.