I hope you are. And I hope your students are feeling safe. And loved. And protected.
Building this trust will go a long way. Do you remember how we started this conversation?
Feelings > Thinking
Good vibes lead to good lives. And good times. Sounds good, right?
This is true even when you’re learning the densest academic material. It’s also true when you are simply learning how to feel safe.
Everything in school needs to be associated with a feeling. And all good feelings start with feeling safe.
On the other hand, how do you feel when you’re not safe? What is the feeling that is hardwired into our brains when we think we are in danger?
Many people see fear as the most powerful negative emotion. Hatred is rooted in fear. Anger is rooted in fear. Let’s be honest, fear can drive people to do some pretty wacky and irrational things.
And if fear is the most powerful negative emotion, what is the most powerful positive emotion? That’s an easy one.
Think about it. You experience fear when you feel unsafe. So fear is the opposite of safety. And fear is also the opposite of love.
Does that mean safety and love are the same thing?
If kids are going to feel safe, they have to feel loved. There’s no way around it. This first week of school needs to be dedicated to showering children with love and support so they feel like they can be themselves in your classroom. Kids need to know that no matter what they do, they are protected and loved.
Hopefully the family photos, the warm and open body language, and the comfort corner have all calmed your students’ nerves.
Because they all represent love in different ways.
Even if these strategies worked, this next one is mandatory.
Love is the most important ingredient in your classroom.
What does it mean to show love? Well, it’s definitely not easy to define. Love means care, concern, support, trust, freedom, comfort, peace, and so much more. Building a classroom around these ideals can only happen when you open yourself up to feeling what your kids are feeling.
And sometimes that means really letting kids feel what they are feeling. Kids need to learn that expressing their emotions is a good thing.
A lot of adults hear a child crying and they want it to stop. Admittedly, thats’ what most of these posts are about. But it’s not about teacher and adults stopping a child from crying. It’s about helping a child learn to control and regulate his or her own emotions.
Have you ever responded to a crying child with “It’s okay.” I have. I’m pretty sure we all have. What does this really mean though? Does it teach the child anything about emotional control?
What’s okay? The scary emotional situation I’m going through? The dreadful fear that my parent may never return? That I’ll be stuck in this strange new place with strange new people forever? That’s okay?
Yeah. Not really a great coping mechanism to tell a child everything is going to be fine when things don’t feel fine. Instead, try expressing empathy and imagining what the child is feeling.
“You must be feeling scared right now. I know I would be feeling sad and scared if my mom just left me in a new place. It must be hard to be away from her. Does that make you feel worried and sad?”
Mirror their emotions. Work to understand. Instead of trying to fix their emotional problems, try to get inside their heads. Listen to kids and feel what they are feeling.
Once you have described their feelings, they know that you get it. They will respond with a look. You will know it when you see it.
Here is a chance for you to pivot, if you’d like. “I can tell you love your mom so much. You must miss her already. And you know your mom loves you, right? You know she would never do anything to hurt you or scare you. She only wants you to be happy. Do you think she would bring you to a place that wasn’t safe? No way. She wants you to be at school. School is a great place where you are safe and loved, just like at home. And you want to know something else about school? It’s actually so. much. fun. Don’t you think your mom wants you to have fun at school? Can we have fun if we are crying all day? I think mom wants you to be happy. Can we try and be happy so when mom comes back she sees that beautiful smile that she loves so much?”
This is off the top of my head but you can get an idea for the flow of the conversation. I probably wouldn’t say all this at once but would read the situation and see which lines were hitting home.
As always, do your own thing.
This is just a guide. I know you have your own language, your own style, and your own way of communicating with your students. My word is not the gospel. It is just an example and I hope it is helpful in sparking some inspiration. I know you will come up with something great.
Another way to express love is to use love languages.
I’m not going to write those out in my own words but rather post this helpful graphic:
(I’d say that receiving gifts probably isn’t the best way to establish the trusting friendships with your students. Bribery is hardly ever a good option for motivating children.)
There’s so much more I could write on this topic but we will get there throughout the year.
The love and trust in your classroom will continue to grow as the year goes on. It will show itself in ways that you can’t even imagine.
This is about planting the seed. Once you do, tend to it with care and compassion.
You will see just how much it can grow.