Creating a Safe Learning Environment

Instructor: Erin Pugh
A safe learning environment requires physical, emotional, and intellectual security for students. Discover ways to create that space for students to think, grow, and learn.

Meeting our Needs

Fights. Insults. Jokes that go too far. All can threaten the secure learning environment that teachers strive to create. Whether it's alleviating the first-time-in-school fears of a kindergartner or ensuring a safe haven for a teased teenager, making a classroom safe is the first step to effective learning. According to the psychological theory behind Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs, for people to achieve their intellectual potential, basic needs such as food, shelter, and safety must be met. Although events outside of school may be beyond a teacher's control, within the classroom walls, teachers can create a setting conducive to learning.

Pyramid showing our Hierarchy of Needs according to Maslow
Maslows Hierarchy of Needs

Physical Safety

Start with the obvious - physical safety. When not being used in the lesson, scissors, sharp objects, and any other potentially harmful substances, like chemicals for an experiment, should be inaccessible. Make sure any electrical cords are not tripping hazards and that there is a clear path to the door. Before having any plants or animals in the classroom, check for possible student allergies. Likewise, before serving any snacks, survey students or parents for food allergies and make sure any goodies are allergen-free.

Consider the furniture. Jagged wooden surfaces can cause splinters, and missing bolts on chairs or desks can cause falls or injuries. Overstuffed furniture can hold dust mites or mold. Make sure not to use any hazardous furnishings. When creating a seating chart, consider the placement of students. If you know that friction exists between two students, seat them apart.

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