Kids need to feel safe, valued, connected, and purposeful.
Life is full of paradoxes and opposites. No better words so aptly describe the start of a brand-new school year. School staff smiles optimistically at the sunny beginning amid the shadowy concerns for student safety. You plan for new programs despite the budgetary constraints. You watch the irony of students trying to act naturally. For us at 5 Radical Minutes, we must balance our prevention program and crisis response training. Despite the paradoxes and ironies, there are two things we know for sure: we all value a fresh start and we all need to make schools feel safe. To accomplish this, school must be a place where kids feel valued, connected, and purposeful. Teachers and staff play a big role in this.
4 Ways to Help Make Schools Feel Safe
As teachers and staff, you have an enormous opportunity to influence school climate. These changes are outward facing, but they start on the inside. There are many ways to shift your mindset. We explore four below.
Start your day with a gratitude mindset. This may be a quiet moment as you get dressed. You might add a few things to a running list on your phone as you prepare your morning coffee. Maybe you jot down 3 things in your daily planner as students show up. However you mark your gratitude, be intentional. Allow gratitude to be the focus of your thoughts as early in your morning as possible.
Keep Yourself Centered
Take a few minutes to get centered. Breathe deeply 3-4 times to slow all the things going on in your mind and body. Keeping your emotions in check and staying calm throughout the school day will not only allow you to teach more effectively, you’ll be more available to your students.
Find a Positive Focus
You have a choice in how you look at your day. You can dread certain aspects, focus on your fatigue, and assume that one of your more troubled student will act up in class again. OR you can walk into your day assuming that you’ll do something kind for someone. Whether or not you realize it, you are reaching all of your students every day, both by what you do and by what you don’t do. Choosing to be positive will allow you to touch the lives of your students powerfully!
Once you’re at school, look for every opportunity to build community and to guide students in building their own community around them. Notice times your language could be more inclusive. Add more suggestions for ways students might work on things together during problem solving, reinforcing the message, “Two heads are better than one.”