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Creating a Safe Classroom Environment

EducationWorld is pleased to present this administrator resource shared by Linda Dusenbury, Ph.D., a researcher and expert in evidence-based prevention strategies designed to promote student competencies and motivation, and to create safe and nurturing classrooms and schools.

These tips are based in part on "Best Practices in Classroom Management," a training DVD that Dr. Dusenbury helped develop.

Creating a classroom that is organized and that is characterized by mutual respect makes it a lot easier to teach effectively, and one of the most important things teachers can do to promote learning is to create classroom environments where students feel safe. If you’re using interactive approaches such as small groups and cooperative learning, it’s especially important to create a classroom where students feel safe asking questions and contributing to discussions.

Students need to feel safe in order to learn. They need to feel secure in order to want to participate. There are a number of things teachers can do to set up classrooms that feel safe and well-organized.  Here are some tips:

  • First, be sure the classroom is clean, orderly, and inviting. Look at your classroom and ask yourself if it is a place that is distracting, or a place that encourages students to do their best. If there are papers on the floor or things falling out of desks, it is distracting.
  • Arrange your classroom so that you have all the resources you need – all the books, calculators and materials – right where you can find them, within easy reach, so that you never have to stop teaching or turn your back on your students.
  • Make it easy to supervise your students.
    • Place mirrors next to the dry erase board and the chalk board so that even when you may have to turn your back to write on the board, you can still keep an eye on students. 
    • Ask students to write on the board for you. It encourages students to be directly involved, it helps them develop a basic skill –writing so that others can read what they write, and most importantly, it will save you work and allows you to keep your face to the students. Keeping your face to the students is important for good classroom control, especially when you’re using active teaching methods that invite student participation. Involved students are not going to be quiet, and being able to monitor their behavior helps keep things orderly. In the long run, engaging students in learning will make all your teaching more effective.
  • Organize the physical space of your classroom for movement and interaction. Make it easy for students to pull their desks together to do small group work. Set it up so that it is easy for you to walk around.  Your movement around the classroom helps make your teaching more engaging. It also helps with classroom control. 
  • Make it safe for students to participate and ask questions. No matter what a student says, make it a habit to respond with respect. Model respect for your students, and teach them to show respect for one another.

It is also important to think about the environment of the school, beyond the classroom. When you stand in the hallway or cafeteria, what do you see? What do you hear? Some schools feel like prisons, where students may not even be allowed to talk, and students may seem overly compliant. Other schools can be totally out of control. Both extremes are likely to take something away from the learning experience. Work together with other teachers and administrators to encourage positive interaction among students. If you want students to be interactive and engaged in your class, what happens at school after they leave your class also matters.

Some schools have given a lot of attention to what happens in all areas of the building, working hard to make sure students are always well supervised by adults. They may taken additional measures to cut down on fights by improving traffic flow through the hallways by staggering the times classes dismiss, or removing obstacles such as trash cans.

Be conscious of the environment in your school and classroom. When you create a climate of safety and respect, learning will follow.

 

About Dr. Dusenbury

A nationally recognized expert in evidence-based prevention strategies designed to promote student competencies and motivation, and to create safe and nurturing classrooms and schools, Dr. Linda Dusenbury founded Bridging the Gap Professional Development Services, LLC, where researchers and educators work together to help schools achieve their goals. 

Dr. Dusenbury has worked as a Senior Research Scientist with The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), Tanglewood Research, Inc., Drug Strategies, and numerous other organizations focused on improving the lives of young people. She has produced award-winning videos and online courses, and published more than 75 professional articles and chapters focused on effective strategies to promote student competence and prevent problem behaviors.


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