Updated: Mar 6
Classroom safety is a huge concern for teachers, and for good reason. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 1 in 5 students reports being bullied at school. In this blog post, we will discuss 11 ways that teachers can make their classrooms feel safer. These tips include everything from creating a positive learning environment to establishing rules and consequences. Implementing these strategies will help create a safe and welcoming learning environment for your students!
It is critical for children to feel safe and secure in the classroom. Kids need to know without a doubt that the teacher will respond if they are in trouble or if something bad happens. The kids need to feel like you will drop what you are doing when they call for help, even if that situation is between classes when no one else is in the room with them.
How Do You Make Children Feel Safe in the Classroom?
Try to be visible: home base in the classroom
Always try to have a place in your room that is your 'home base' or central location within the classroom, where you spend most of your time with students. This may be at a desk, table, counter, etc. Make it a comfortable and inviting space where they know they can find you easily – and where you know they can find you.
Be a good listener: how to listen and respond to kids
Kids need to know that adults will listen to them and that they won't get in trouble for saying what is on their mind – even if it seems silly or weird. When talking with students, give them your full attention and make eye contact with them. If you are distracted, tell the kids what is distracting you and let them know that you want to continue talking with them as soon as possible.
Be approachable: how to regularly interact with your students
This one is simple – just stay close to your students! Studies have shown that distance can create anxiety for children. Even if it is not practical for you to stay close, at least make it a point to regularly interact with students in your class. This might be as simple as looking up from what you are doing and asking a student how they are doing.
Create familiarity: welcoming students back after a break
Do something during the first week of school that will let them know that you care about them and want to get to know them. You may do this when they arrive in the fall, or when they return after a long winter break. This might be something like having students write about themselves and share it with you (and others), letting the students help set specific rules and routines for your class, taking time to meet each child's parents during open house or parent conferences, etc.
Have clear rules: the importance of posting classroom rules
It is important for students to understand what the classroom expectations are at all times. By having clear posted classroom rules, students can understand what is expected of them and how they should behave. Students need to know that the classroom rules apply equally to all students and that there will be consequences if they break a rule.
Praise kids for following rules: how the reward system changed everything
I am a huge believer in positive reinforcement. I find that when kids are rewarded for following rules, they are more likely to follow the rules again in the future. When a student follows a rule or does something well, make sure you let them know that you noticed and care about their success. Even if it is just a small reward like being first in line, using eye contact to acknowledge them, calling on them first, etc. You may even find that you need to make a reward system for the kids where they earn points toward something special at the end of each week for following rules and doing their best.
8 simple ways to reward students
Give verbal praise
Smile and make eye contact
High-five or fist bump
Write a note of appreciation
Give them a sticker or stamp
Let them choose the next activity
Give them a token or point system
Give them a special privilege
Have a 'safe' word: a strategy for managing student behavior
Many of my younger students are very active in class and it can be difficult to communicate effectively with them, especially if you have more than a few students speaking at once. This typically leads to the teacher yelling to gain the child's attention and/or asking kids to be quiet multiple times before they actually listen. In my experience, this does not work well as it tends to lead towards power struggles between student and teacher, as well as embarrassment for the child.
I typically choose a 'safe' word (i.e., "pop tart") that will be effective for my students to let me know they are about to act out of line. If I hear them say this, then I know to stop speaking with them immediately and address their behavior. This has been very successful in my classroom and I have found that usually, the students will point out when they are about to say the word without me even asking them!
Give options: how giving students options can help with classroom management
While it is important for kids to know what behavior is expected of them, it is also helpful when you give them some control over their own educational destiny. For example, by giving a student an option, You can clean up these blocks before we get started with class today OR after you finish playing a quick game on the SmartBoard.
Break things down into steps: adding student confidence
Give students small tasks to complete throughout the day and week that they will know how to do successfully at their current level of development. If kids are given one large task to complete at once, they are more likely to become overwhelmed and end up not knowing what to do. This can lead to loss of confidence in their abilities and/or power struggles between teacher and student.
Remember: "It's not about me": be less emotionally reactive with kids
As an adult, it can be very difficult to see things from a child's perspective. Kids do not think as we do and oftentimes lack the maturity that comes with age to handle certain situations in the way that adults would expect them to. A great phrase that I try my best to remember is: "It's not about me." Kids may do things that I as the adult find distasteful or even downright rude, but if I assume that they are doing it just to spite me then we'll likely end up in a power struggle. Instead, I try my best to step back and consider what would motivate them to act that way. What does it mean for them to show me that they are upset right now?
Give warning signs: when should you use warning signs in your classroom?
Warning signs for classroom transition to help give students a heads-up on what is going to happen next and/or what is expected of them. This often helps the student feel more in control of their own situation and can make a world of difference when it comes to reducing stress and anxiety.
Top 6 Classroom Transition Prompts for Teachers
Hands in the air
Time left (minute hand, hour hand)
As a teacher, it can be difficult to make sure that your classroom is a safe and welcoming place for students. However, by following the tips listed above, you can create an environment where kids feel comfortable taking risks and trying new things. Remember to be patient with your students and to take the time to get to know them as individuals. Each child is unique and deserves your individualized attention.
Thank you for reading!