By Allison Kirch, Staffing Specialist for MHED
Understanding and Applying Tier 2: Safety and Security
Students need their basic needs to be taken care of, but they also need to feel safe—in the school building, classroom, and safe with their peers and teacher. Often, that starts with building teacher/student relationships as well as student/student relationships. We must ensure the classroom is safe physically for all students, as well as mentally and emotionally from any bullying, etc. For example, if there are backpacks, binders and chairs strung across the room, a student with a physical disability may not feel physically safe to move around the classroom freely in fear they may trip over items in the walkway. Because of the circumstances, this student may not feel welcome because their peers as well as the teacher are not ensuring the environment is safe for them to move around the room with ease. During pass periods, stand at the door and watch students in the hallways. It is easier to spot bullying in a smaller classroom setting, but oftentimes bullying can occur during pass periods. If you witness a student being bullied, see if you can discreetly talk with the student, then address with a school counselor or administrator. Never address the situation right off the bat with the student being bullied, and the student who is being the bully at the same time. Oftentimes this can make the situation worse for the student being bullied as we do not know the entire story. If you know the students, discuss privately and individually.
Tying the second with the third, students want to feel a sense of belonging- they want to feel loved by their peers and their teacher(s) with whom they spend the majority of their days with. As a substitute teacher, working to establish relationships with students and maintain positive peer relationships will create a positive learning environment where everyone feels safe, and therefore available to learn. Even though it may be your first time in a classroom, students want to know that you truly care about them. You may not step foot in that classroom again- but you have the ability to positively impact each student while you are in their classroom. Greet students at the door with a welcoming smile and open body language. Try to learn students’ names as quickly as possible and be genuinely involved with the students during your time in their classroom. Use positive reinforcements instead of negative reinforcements and remember that learning is fun! Thank your students as they leave for the day for being respectful, polite, etc. and wish them well on the rest of their day!