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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Are classrooms psychologically safe?

Are classrooms psychologically safe?

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In recently reading a brain-research article by Pat Wolfe, the phrase psychologically safe was used in reference to a learning environment necessary in classrooms for student success. I had to stop and really consider what do teachers do to make a classroom psychologically safe? What do the students expect in that regard? Is that in reference to the students feeling comfortable enough to interact and participate with learning? I was not really sure what a psychologically safe environment would include or exclude. If anyone has some ideas to share, I would love it. The reference was found under the 5th idea that emotion is the primary catalyst to enhance or impede learning.

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Katrina Sneed's picture
Katrina Sneed
Once upon a teacher, now stays at home

My view of a psychologically safe environment is one is which children are not picked on, harassed or called names. Children expect to go to school and not be hit, kicked, or beat up. They also expect not to receive abuse through words, writings and actions of other classmates. The saying "sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me" is not a valid statement. Often time's words hurt more than a physical wound. Words take longer to be forgotten and are sometimes never forgotten. I still have scars from Elementary school about things said to me and about me.

The best way for teachers to make their classroom psychologically safe is by providing an atmosphere in which children act in care and love. Teachers need to be aware of what is being said in their classrooms. They need to make the students aware that name-calling will not be tolerated. Teachers also need to let students know that if there is name calling there will be consequences.

I also know it is not possible to know about everything that goes on all the time in your classroom, but we need to try our best to make all students feel safe physically and psychologically

Deb Mcmann's picture

I agree with a lot of what Katrina said. I think a psychologically safe classroom is, number one, a classroom where put-downs, verbal abuse, and other emotionally harming behaviors are not tolerated. I also think it is a place where students feel comfortable and safe enough to take risks, try new things, and really invest in the learning process. Students need to feel supported by their teachers. They also need to feel safe and supported by their peers.

Joe's picture

I think it is unrealistic to think that teachers can shelter their students to the point where they aren't getting picked on. Every single day I talk to my students about the rewards one receives from being kind. That people always remember how you behave. Your actions (words) stay with you forever.

Shreese Phillips's picture

Part of being a "great teacher" is taking responsibility for your classroom. Of course, I will not know everything that goes on in my classroom, but I put forth every effort to know at least 80% of what is going on. A psychologically safe classroom beigins with the teacher. Normally, if I have a positive outlook on life, so will my students. If I am cool, calm, and collected - that same aroma will spread throughout the classroom. I know there are some exceptions, but let us remember the norms.

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