As an educator, I am excited for the new year ahead. If you are a teacher in the Turks and Caicos Islands, the chances are that you have returned to work to prepare this week. You are making sure that your seating plan in just right, that your rules are posted on the wall, that your supplies are in order and that you are confident to hit the ground running. As you make curriculum and physical layout decisions, be sure to put some thought into the emotional safety that you will create in your classroom.
I strongly believe that the most powerful learning happens through human connection. When students emotionally connect with their educators and with their environments, learning is magical. In order to have this type of learning, we need environments that are socially and emotionally safe for our learners.
Authentic learning is often driven by curiosity. The teacher may present a topic, and the child takes in what is being written on the board, or discussed. However, as educators, we want to see our students make connections with what is being taught. We want to see them taking the material further and grasping for more knowledge, and ways to apply it. We want to see them making connections with other subjects and the real world. This type of learning takes a curious student. Curiosity drives creativity and innovation and it is an essential part of the success of a 21st century student. The tricky thing about curiosity is that it is fragile. A student’s curiosity can be killed in a matter of seconds. Curiosity requires students to take risks and be vulnerable. Fear and shame kill curiosity, and in schools that are not emotionally safe, fear and shame are often seen as the foundation to keeping order and discipline.
As you return to school this month, remember the power you have an educator. Remember that you have the power to create an environment that is as emotionally rich as it is intellectually rich. Remember the value of creating strong connections with your students and that by encouraging, validating and empathizing with them openly, you are also modeling to all your students how to become adults that have a strong EQ (emotional quotient).
Thriving in today’s world takes a lot more than IQ (intelligence quotient). It takes the ability to connect with and understand others. This is also how our students thrive. So as you hang your charts on the wall and plan your first day of school, remember to constantly ask yourselves how you are going to ensure that your students feel emotionally and socially safe. You are in charge of the energy in your classroom. Set the tone for the microcosm of society that you will lead for the 2018-2019 academic year. As educators, we do not have the power to change the world, but we certainly have the power to shape the personality of our learners and to empower them to thrive and reach levels of potential that they never even imagined.
Here are my top 5 ways to create an emotionally safe classroom for your students to thrive.
1. Have a consistent and predictable routine. This will help reduce daily anxiety for many of your students and set a framework for them to thrive.
2. Build trust. The trust that exists between the teacher and the learner can be the difference between thriving and not. When your students trust you, they will join you wholeheartedly on educational journeys.
3. Do not use shame as a method of discipline. Shaming does not create better behaved students. Shaming often causes children to retreat in their shells or to transfer the feelings of guilt to act out in other ways.
4. Be aware. As you get to know your students, take note of their triggers or their signs of overload. Use this not only as a guide for you, but as a tool for them when developing their self regulation skills.
5. Be a champion. In the words of Rita Peirson, ‘Every Child needs a Champion.’ Be the biggest cheerleader you can for your students. This isn’t always easy, but when each student, no matter their level of intellect or ability to behave, thinks that they are your favorite student, a magical class dynamic is created.
If you are educator or administrator that would like support in making your classroom/school more emotionally and socially safe, contact Yolande at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shifting Perspectives is a weekly conversation with Yolande. Yolande, a Canadian of Caribbean descent, now calls the Turks and Caicos Islands home and in this podcast challenges Caribbean woman worldwide to fuel themselves with diversity in the way they think, the way they work, the way they parent and the way they live.