Students don’t learn well if they don’t feel safe. It seems obvious when stated, but many schools lack a safe community environment that their students so desperately need. While schools account for the physical safety of their students, they sometimes neglect the mental or social aspects of student wellbeing. As someone working in a school, what can you do?
Recognize signs and symptoms
Firstly, it is good to be able to recognize signs and symptoms of students not feeling well mentally or socially. Schools are now offering fantastic professional development in mental health “first aid” and being able to help students in times of need. Social difficulties can be harder to spot, especially with things like bullying. Students who seem withdrawn or distant from their peers, uncomfortable with groups of others, or overly loud and obnoxious may be facing social problems. Watching how your students interact with one another is important in every class environment, as it can help aid learning in addition to improving students' wellbeing.
Tackle bullying head on
If you find there is bullying going on at your school, what can you do? Psychology today offers a few great tips for how to stop bullying. Among them, make sure students know who to talk to and how to talk to them if they are being bullied. This should be clear, and obvious that they will not receive any judgment or negative repercussions. Bullies often act that way because they seek an audience and approval. Speaking with those students individually, and helping them find more constructive outlets to achieve approval may help tremendously. Lastly, make sure students know the vocabulary to use to address bullying, both as a victim and a bystander. This can be achieved by displaying educational posters, and it will give your students valuable tools to use for years to come.
Encourage conversation about online bullying
Often, bullying in schools takes place outside of the walls, and online instead. Online bullying is an all-too-common method of harassment among peers. As educators we rarely see this as it happens on private social media accounts, and anonymously outside school hours. We can address it though, through discussing internet etiquette and citizenry with students. A great way to start this conversation is by displaying an online bullying poster that can act as a discussion point, while also making sure students feel comfortable and confident reporting abuse.
Set a good example for your students in your relationships with other educators, and work daily to make your school environment feel safe and respectful. Students who feel comfortable in their learning environment will do markedly better in their studies than those who don’t. We should always aim to provide for the wellbeing of our students.