Three Ways to Create a Safe and Peaceful Learning Environment

Jeremy RinkelBlog, Engage Better, Innovate Better, Lesson Plan Better, Manage Better

In this Post :

  • Teachers are competing against the fast-paced entertainment, gaming, videos and much more
  • Music can be a great way to transition – try guitar music
  • Provide options for students
  • Sharing without judgement is essential

What gets and keeps people’s attention at a rock concert?

Loud music, mind-blowing guitar solos, and super stunning light shows. Upside down 360 degree roller coasters don’t hurt to keep people’s attention either. I have a friend who says if your ears aren’t ringing the day after a concert, a) it wasn’t any good. OR b) your seats were horrible. 

Teachers are competing against the fast-paced entertainment, gaming, videos, and much more. Videos are helpful and can hold attention, but they must have a purpose. The “right now” and often instant gratification need puts us at a disadvantage.

How do we compete? Can we compete? 

Allow transition time

For true learning to take place, the classroom needs to be a safe, nonjudgmental, and peaceful environment. Students bounce from class to class with little time to process and transition. Creating this time helps nurture a learning environment.

A few years back, an older gentlemen gave me a guitar. I tried and couldn’t play much more than some notes and a few chords. After failing to learn how to play the guitar, I attempted to give it back to him. He encouraged me to keep it and give it to someone who could learn, so I brought it into my classroom. Believe me that guitar has been used and abused. 

The last few years I’ve allowed students to strum or play with my guitar before class starts and before class ends. Occasionally, depending on what we’re doing in class, students will go to the guitar for inspiration. Some kids are super talented; others not so much. 

I decided about a month ago (March 2019) to purchase an electric guitar. This guitar, the one I take to presentations, is filled with stickers from a variety of people including those affiliated with the field of education. (Send me a message on Twitter @RinkelJeremy if you have a sticker for me.)  Right now, I’m a little more careful who touches this guitar, reserving it for mostly students who have some playing experience. 

Bottom line, the guitar brings kids into the room and the transition time is beneficial for the 35 minutes I need them to focus on content, presentations, and projects. It also helps foster a safe and creative classroom environment.

I believe giving options not only leads to a positive learning environment, but it gives students a safe and comfortable place for them to work. Click To Tweet

Give students options

Each of our students is unique and has a variety of strengths. Instead of saying everyone has to write an essay, create a video, or complete an art piece to demonstrate understanding, I give them a variety of options. Sometimes I allow them to propose a project to me if they have their own idea.

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I believe giving options not only leads to a positive learning environment, but it gives students a safe and comfortable place for them to work. When students are comfortable in a learning environment, they will excel and be creative. I believe students do need to get out of the comfort zone to grow, but some students need coached and encouraged to get out of the zone.

Provide opportunities to share without judgement

If our classrooms lack a safe, non-judgmental, and peaceful environment, how can we create it? What ideas, inventions, and cures are locked inside of our students because of fear and ridicule from their peers?

I NEVER force a student to get up and present in front of their peers, but I highly encourage them to share their work. Students fear judgement and bullying from peers. One way I’ve encouraged students to share their project is through creating a website using Adobe Spark or Google Sites. By allowing this “passive” presentation, it allows the students to consume the content at their own speed and come up with relevant questions.

I ask students to give constructive feedback. Creating a classroom culture that is safe and peaceful must be modeled and expectations set from the first day of school. With that said, students will need reminders. Instead of students asking questions (putting students in the “hot seat”) after a presentation, I encourage them to share thoughts through a Google Form (Example) or in a forum created in Google Classroom. This not only takes the pressure off the students, but allows them to think about the response to the questions posed by their peers.

So how do YOU create a safe, non-judgmental, and peaceful environment in YOUR class? I would love to know! Tweet at me and let me know!

About Jeremy Rinkel

Jeremy is a husband, father, high school English teacher and Yoga Teacher. He has earned a Masters in Educational Policy from the University of Illinois and a Masters in Teaching from Greenville University. His goal is to inspire students, teachers and anyone he comes into contact with to be a life long learner. Jeremy believes education is the key to solving our world’s problems. In his free time, Jeremy enjoys traveling, writing, spending time in coffee shops, and spending time with his family watching old TV shows on Netflix. In the summer, he can be found at a Lake Sara in Central Illinois teaching Standup Paddleboard Yoga.
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