Ways of maintaining a healthy, safe learning environment for children
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Creating a safe learning environment for pupils is a daunting task. Children not only need to feel physically safe in their school and classroom, but emotionally and intellectually safe as well. Pupils who feel safe and secure in their classroom are more likely to do well in school.
Designing a classroom and learning area that is environmentally safe should be relatively straight forward, and yet many dangers are easy to overlook until an accident occurs. The physical environment of the classroom depends on the age group being taught; educate yourself on the developmental abilities of your age group and plan accordingly. For example, sharp scissors are not appropriate in a preschool classroom, but are a necessity for the senior school art room. Sharp utensils are necessary for a junior or senior school biology class, but should be stored out of the way until they are needed to avoid any accidents. Teachers in an infants school classroom should avoid furniture with sharp edges, since some children are still developing their large motor skills, and may fall frequently. Also consider the individual pupils you are teaching. Children with behavioural problems or developmental disabilities may require alterations to their physical environment to ensure their safety. Do not hesitate to make changes to your classroom as necessary.
Creating a welcoming learning environment
Children learn best when they feel safe and comfortable. Make pupilts feel welcome by taking the time to get to know each of them. Be consistent in the way that you treat them so that they feel they can trust you. Promote a friendly atmosphere between pupils through group activities that foster respect for others. Do not allow children to laugh at or tease one another, and let them know that bullying is not tolerated. Ensure that your classroom is a place where pupils feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, experimenting with new ideas, and making the mistakes that are an inevitable part of the learning process.
Pupils need boundaries in order to feel safe and secure enough to explore the world around them. One way to set boundaries in the classroom is to create rules. Rules should dictate how children behave in the classroom and interact with peers. The rules you create will depend on the children you teach. However, the more simple and straighforward your rules, the more likely they will work, no matter the age group. Too many rules will overwhelm younger pupils, or make older children rebel. Whenever possible, engage puipils in the rule-making process; this makes them feel like a valued member of the classroom. Take time to explain classroom rules and the rationale behind them; children will not follow rules they feel are arbitrary. Make certain that the rules and the consequences for breaking them are clear and posted in the classroom.
Promoting healthy behaviour
Children who are physically healthy are better learners. Promote good health in your classroom by explaining to your pupils the importance of good nutrition and exercise. Whenever possible, get your students out of their seats and moving during lessons. Model a healthy lifestyle by staying fit and eating a healthy diet. Encourage your pupils to get plenty of rest, and communicate with parents how a healthy lifestyle can enhance academic achievement.
It is important to form a relationship with your pupils so that you will know if a child needs help. If you notice that a pupil seems unhappy, depressed or angry, try to talk to that individual, and contact parents if necessary. If a child displays behaviour or actions that are aggressive or otherwise disturbing, tell your head teacher and contact the appropriate personnel, such as police or counsellors, as the situation demands. Every school should have guidelines for how to handle such situations; if your school does not, talk to your head teacher and school board to suggest that guidelines are put in place.
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