Emotionally Safe Schools
Creating an emotionally safe school is essential in developing intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligence (Bluestein, 2001). Emotionally safe schools can be established through creating environments where children feel safe, can take risks, are challenged but not overly stressed, and where play, pleasure, and fun are facilitated (Bluestein, 2001).
In order for trust to be established, children must feel safe (Bluestein, 2001). If a child goes to school with fear of being bullied, beat up, or murdered, personal intelligence (along with most other intelligences) is not going to develop appropriately. A safe environment is created by not allowing one child to invade another child’s body, space, and material boundaries. A safe environment is one which has clear expectations regarding the safety of all students. Bullying is not tolerated. Conflict resolution skills are taught and modeled by teachers.
An emotionally safe school allows the child to fail without feeling he is a failure (Bluestein, 2001). Appropriate challenges are facilitated by teachers. Children are not pressured to receive a particular grade or obtain a particular score. Children are expected to debate, discuss, and problem solve. If they come to an incorrect solution, they are encouraged to try again or to try another method of problem solving. Children are not belittled, punished, or embarrassed when they do not succeed or meet their own goals. The child’s worth is not determined by his test score or performance. The child is valued because she is a member of the class. In an emotionally safe classroom, teachers make mistakes. They share these mistakes with children and sometimes elicit the children’s help in solving their problem.
Contemporary schoolchildren bring many forms of stress with them to the classroom. The stress can take the form of academic pressure, familial pressure to perform, being part of a single-parent family, hurried schedules, and pressure to grow up too fast (Elkind, 1988; Bluestein, 2001). The pressure can come from school, home, or the media.
Stress causes wear on bodily systems and when one is overstressed, the immune system can be directly affected. Stress uses up energy reserves, demands a greater amount of energy, and forces the body to respond physically through aggression, outbursts, or illness (Elkind, 1988).
Stress can be reduced by making sure children’s basic needs are met, they feel safe, and they are able to take risks without fear of failure; and by having appropriate expectations of children at specific ages.
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