Yesterday I was cleaning out my mom’s old desk in the basement of her home. She died two years ago this May and dad who is now ninety-five is ready to move into an assisted living apartment.
When I opened the desk door inside was a pile of things mom collected. Old pictures of family, our first dog Ringo, my brother’s band and a picture of my mom and dad hugging and laughing. She also had a bunch of old Christmas and greeting cards from twenty years back and her Aunt Gertie’s old work photo from 1947. At first I thought to myself, “Mom why did you keep all this stuff?” Then I realized that this was her space, her safe place to go to get away from all five kids pulling her in five directions, a safe place to run to when my dad was complaining about all of his aches and pains, a safe place to relax and be herself.
We all need our space, a safe place where we can run away from people who are not treating us with respect. When I first started speaking on bully prevention, a sixth grader once told me that she was being bullied on the bus every day. When I asked her what she is doing to put an end to the bullying she replied, “Every day I run up to my room, my safe place where he can’t call me names and then I pray for him.”
Just like at home our schools also need to be a safe place for students. As one middle school teacher told me, most of his students come from broken homes or have a parent or parents who are bullies or dealing with their own demons. The students need to know that at school they’re safe and there are people willing to listen and support them.
“We know from lots of research that if students are afraid, they’re not coming to school and they’re not engaged when they’re there. We’re continuing to lose minutes of instruction and it’s going to negatively impact academic engagement.” Jeff Sprague, Ph.D.,Professor of Special Education University of Oregon, Co-Director of the University, of Oregon Institute on Violence and Destructive Behaviour
Some of the things we can do to promote a safe school and a safe place for our students:
A staff that is respectful to students
Students who learn and understand what it means to be respectful to staff
Well defined school discipline policy
Promotion of parental involvement
A teacher to student mentoring program
A student to student mentoring program
Law enforcement involvement when necessary
Mental Health Professional involvement
Monthly social activities that promote student interaction and personal pride
Ed Virant Coordinator for Drug Free Schools, Omaha Public Schools says: “A safe school climate is one that builds on the strengths and assets of each student.”
Barbara Clayton, Peer Intervention Program, Chicago says: “A save school is where we teach and modelling pro-social behaviour”
In October most of the schools in America celebrate Safe Schools Week where they have programs on bullying and school violence prevention. I believe in addition to this information they should add a reminder to the students that their school is their second home, with a family of students and staff willing to listen and support them. Remind them that their school is a place where they can relax and be themselves.
Copyright Richard Paul 2013