1. Helping pupils feel safe
Your behaviour in school can have a big impact, both positive and negative, on pupils’ behaviour and motivation to learn. So, too, can the ways pupils interact with each other. We have already discussed some ways you can encourage your pupils to consider each other’s feelings. Here, we talk more about helping them feel safe and more secure, because when they do, they will learn better.
Everyone strives to be safe and secure. In many places, people build houses with strong walls, windows and doors so that they feel safe inside their property. Other people put guards on their houses and cars. And others even walk around with weapons for security purposes.
But these things only protect us physically. As we have seen, people feel emotionally safe when they are surrounded by people they trust. The best way to do this is to develop a supportive network of friends and partners. At school, when pupils feel unsafe, insecure or worried, they cannot learn effectively.
Case Study 1: Walking to school safely
One day, Thuku, a Standard III teacher in Tanzania, found a worried little boy sitting among the other pupils and crying. The pupils were comforting him and asking what was the matter, using the kind of language they had learned for discussing feelings.
After some time, the boy explained that he was walking to school when three older boys with sticks had run after him shouting that they were going to beat him and take his bag and shoes. He ran away to hide in the school.
With the help of the other pupils, Thuku calmed the boy down by explaining how he was safe now. They told him that he was at school now, and the boys would not come into the school. Also, his teacher was with him, and the teacher would stop any boys from troubling him. He was surrounded by his friends, and they would protect him.
After school, his friends walked home with him and talked with his family and neighbours about what had happened.
The next day, Thuku decided to have another session with his pupils to discuss feelings of safety and security and how to support each other.
Activity 1: Feeling safe – a discussion
Organise a discussion on feeling safe and secure. Start by telling a story about the boy in the case study.
- Ask the pupils, in small groups, to describe situations at home and at school when they feel a) safe and secure, and b) unsafe.
- With the whole class, identify some general points about when we feel safe and when we don’t. List these on the board.
- Ask the groups to discuss what they could do to make everyone feel safe and secure in the classroom and the playground.
- Finally, draw up a list of behaviours that make people feel safe in the classroom and the playground and display it on the wall.