TIPP 1: Ensure All Members of the School Community Feel Safe, Respected, and Valued
Safe and nurturing environments establish a secure base for children. When children feel safe and cared for in their classrooms, they perform better on academic tasks and are less likely to become frustrated when they encounter social and intellectual challenges. The same is true for adults who work in schools; adults must also feel safe, at ease, respected, and valued for their individual strengths and for the contributions that they make to the school community.
Efforts to create safe and inclusive communities must occur at all levels and across all areas and domains of the school setting. Creating safe, nurturing, and inclusive classrooms requires an emphasis on consistent routines and practices. Students function at their best when they know what to expect and when they can plan in advance for situations that will arise. When teachers post and vocalize routines, students can adjust their behavior accordingly. Creating predictable routines and practices particularly helps students who have experienced trauma feel safe and secure.
In addition, students who have been traumatized should be given a “healing sense of ownership and control over their environment” (Crosby, 2015, p. 226), both in the classroom and in other school locations. By sharing control, teachers need not relinquish their authority or shy away from implementing and enforcing rules and routines; however, students should be given a voice and opportunities to participate in decisions that impact them directly. Encouraging students to vocalize opinions and to engage in decision-making deepens their connection to others and strengthens their commitment to learning.
Creating safe and inclusive classrooms also requires that teachers stay attuned to the ways in which their classroom management strategies are or are not culturally appropriate, unbiased, and equitable. When teachers respond to students without consideration of how their own actions will be perceived, or whether they are culturally sensitive, there is a risk of alienating students and breaking their trust. When students perceive a teacher’s actions as biased, inconsistent, or culturally insensitive, they feel less secure, less safe, and less valued as a member of a school or classroom community.