Amanda has taught high school science for over 10 years. She has a Master's Degree in Cellular and Molecular Physiology from Tufts Medical School and a Master's of Teaching from Simmons College. She is also certified in secondary special education, biology, and physics in Massachusetts.
What Are Threats to Personal Safety?
As a teacher, we always want to make sure our students are safe, happy, and cared for. However, there are certainly times when this is out of our control, such as when they commute to and from school, when they are at home, or with their friends. We do our best to set norms in the classroom to help students learn good habits, but we also need to explicitly teach them how to stay safe. In this lesson, you'll be learning some of the main threats to students' personal safety and tips on how to educate them to stay safe on their own.
Teaching Safety Precautions
Safety lessons are absolutely crucial for younger children, who are still learning how to navigate the world. However, there are plenty of safety topics that teens need as well. Although they might know how to cross the street, they might not know about the dangers of drugs alcohol, or basics about their sexual health. Depending on what age range you teach, the topics will vary. Here, we'll give an example for both younger and older students.
The area you as a teacher have the most control over is school. Some explicit ways we can teach students to be safe are by establishing norms of 'Hands to yourself', which encourages students to respect each other's space. This is applicable to all age groups, even teenagers where unwanted touch may be a sign of sexual interest or physical threat.
Creating a positive school culture prevents many instances of physical violence in both elementary, middle, and high school. Teaching students that we are part of a community encourages them to treat each other with respect, even without explicit rules about fighting.
School isn't just about creating a space safe from physical violence, but also emotional violence. Bullying is a huge problem, especially in middle school and high school. Every school should have a plan of action for bullying, with clear interventions, both to support the emotional health of the victim, and the bully, who is also often traumatized themselves.
Besides staying safe from visible threats, there are also microscopic ones: germs. Bacteria and viruses sweep through schools like an invading army. Keeping our students, and staff, safe from sickness can be a big challenge in such close quarters. Keep alcohol based hand sanitizer, tissues, and plenty of soap and water to prevent the transmission of disease.
Unfortunately, once students leave school, we have no control over their safety. We hope that students can apply the lessons from school when they leave, but it's also important to teach them explicit ways to stay safe in between school and home. For younger students, it's important to remind them to wait until a parent or guardian picks them up, either from school or at the bus stop. If they have to go home alone, remind them to look both ways before crossing the street and never to talk to strangers on the street. You can call home to talk to the family about arranging a pickup as well. Very young students should not be on the street alone.
Older students can usually find their way home, but the same cautions apply. Teenagers are notorious for being glued to their phones. Reminding them to look up before crossing the street, and keep aware of their surroundings by not playing music too loudly can help keep them out of dangerous situations. Explain about taking well-lit routes and crossing the street if trouble appears on their side.
You can hope that older students will take the positive community they have built at school with them. Educating students about the dangers of drugs and alcohol in an unbiased way during school can help them make good choices outside of school. Students need access to reliable information about sexual health, their sexuality and sex organs. Sex is a normal, healthy part of being human, and students need to learn how to have these experiences while keeping physically healthy from sexually transmitted infections and emotionally healthy.
Home life can be very good, with parents to take up the job of safety concerns as teachers do in school. But, it can also be chaotic or even dangerous. Having open communication with family is key. Having parent night at school or having parents to the school for a meeting gives you a chance to reinforce good safety habits at home with families and students.
However, if you suspect an unsafe home life, it is your legal responsibility to report it as possible child abuse, or physical harm being done to the child. Keep an eye out for unexplained bruises, students who seem depressed anxious, or don't want to leave school. Even if the intent of the parent is not malicious, they may be working so many hours to pay the bills there is no one home to do laundry, cook dinner, or ensure your student goes to bed and wakes up for school. In this case, additional supports from the community or family may be needed to keep the student safe.
Personal safety is the degree to which a student is safe in their environment. At school, we can create a positive classroom culture to promote caring and empathy within our community. We can also establish norms that protect students' physical and emotional health, and create sanitary environments for learning. After school, teachers of younger students should ensure an adult picks them up if possible, and they know the danger of intersections and strangers. Older students may need special attention to put their phone away outside and be given information about drugs, alcohol and sexual health. At home, unintentional neglect or child abuse might threaten student safety and should be reported.
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