Teachers have a responsibility to keep their students safe while those students are under their care. This can be a daunting prospect, especially considering typical classroom sizes and the current pandemic situation. Though challenging, there are some basic, and relatively simple things teachers can do to help keep their classrooms and students safe.
Follow School Protocols
School protocols can play an important role in helping teachers and administration keep students safe. One of the protocols that illustrates this is the procedures that are put in place for checking out a student. While the protocol will change from school to school, the idea is that the protocol will help prevent someone from leaving with a student who isn’t supposed to have them. Another example would be the more recent protocols that have been put in place to deal with cases of COVID-19. These illustrate the proper course of action to take if students refuse to wear a mask or if someone becomes ill as the day progresses.
Set Classroom Rules
Classroom rules can go a long way towards promoting safety. When setting classroom rules, it’s important to take into consideration the age group you’re setting them for. Elementary school students will need a different set of rules than high school students. These rules can help protect not just the physical safety of students, but can also help protect their mental and emotional safety as well. According to Parenting Science, measures that discourage bullying should be put into place, and consequences for breaking rules should be set. Make sure the consequences make sense for the rule and consistently enforce them. Otherwise you might as well not have the rules in the first place.
Personal hygiene warrants special consideration, especially now with a pandemic going on. Remind students to avoid touching their face. You might even make a game out of it and see who can go the longest without touching their face. According to Mercy, it’s a good idea to encourage students to wash their hands properly before they eat, after they use the bathroom, and after they cough or sneeze. Sending students out to wash their hands can get to be very disruptive though. To address the potential problem of students traipsing out at all times during class, have hand sanitizer placed near the door, on your desk, and anywhere else you think might be a good spot.
A cluttered classroom has a higher potential of being a hazardous classroom. It increases the chances of students, or even the teacher, getting injured. According to HangSafe Hooks, the vast majority of school injuries are unintentional. It could be a problem as simple as tripping over a backpack or a jacket that didn’t quite get put away well enough. Having a place for everything can go a long way towards reducing clutter. Encourage students to hang their backpacks on their seats or push them entirely under their desks instead of keeping them leaned against the sides. Jackets should be similarly stowed away. Encourage students to pick up items if they drop them to prevent someone from tripping on them.
Keep the Classroom Clean
On a similar note to personal hygiene, keeping the classroom itself clean and sanitary can help keep your classroom a safe place for students to be. Sure, the janitorial staff does a lot to keep your classroom clean, but doing something to help them out isn’t a bad idea. According to TripleS, it’s a good idea to take some time to wipe down classroom high contact surfaces regularly. You’ll be protecting the students who use those surfaces, yourself, and anyone else who comes into the classroom. Keep in mind that not all cleaners are suited for all tasks. You wouldn’t use the same cleaner you use on your desk to clean your keyboard and computer screen, for example.
Be Familiar with Emergency Procedures
Along with school protocols, being familiar with emergency procedures is critical for teachers. As stated at the beginning, teachers have a responsibility to ensure the safety of the students they teach. If you aren’t familiar with your school’s emergency procedures, it will be far more difficult to accomplish this. Different procedures will be needed for different emergencies, and you never know which one you’ll need at any given point. The hope, obviously, is that you never need to use that knowledge, but if you do you’ll be glad you have it. Become so familiar with the procedures that you don’t even have to think about what you’re supposed to do – you just know to do it. According to ePact, this is part of why emergency drills are so important, though they may be temporarily discontinued due to social distancing directives.
Be Supportive of Sick Days
Everyone, students and teachers alike, need sick days on occasion. A sick student becomes a risk for everyone they encounter. Now more than ever, it’s important for those who feel ill to stay home. Teachers may be able to have a substitute teacher fill in for them, but students don’t have that option. They’ll need a way to make up the work they’ve missed. Teachers can help keep their students safe by encouraging them to stay home when they’re sick and by having a plan in place to help them make up whatever work they’ve missed. With so many schools transitioned to an at least partially online format, this may be easier than it was before. If students are able to virtually attend classes, they won’t have to miss out on learning and will be better able to complete their assignments.
Stay Calm and In Control
As a teacher, you are the leader of the classroom. There are many qualities a good leader should have. Among them is the ability to stay calm and in control even when things get difficult. When problems arise, your students will be looking to you for guidance. If you maintain control and keep a clear and level head, you will be better able to choose the appropriate course of action. This will protect both you and your students.
The safety of the classroom and the students within it is a top priority for parents and teachers. Parents entrust the safety of their children to teachers for a good portion of the day. It’s a hefty responsibility, but by following these suggestions teachers can make sure they’re on the right track to protect their classrooms and students.
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