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How to Address Back-to-School Fears

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When the new school year begins, students will enter classrooms feeling a range of emotions, not the least of which is fear. They may wonder: Do I belong? Am I smart enough? Will people tease me? And, most importantly, Am I safe here?

If students feel unsafe and unsupported, they won’t be able to pay attention, focus, take risks, and learn.

You can create a safe environment for learning not by ignoring fear, but by acknowledging it and helping students work through it.

Featured Download: Creating a Safe Learning Environment

Use this sequence of short activities to address back-to-school fears and open the door for social and emotional development in your classroom.

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Creating a Safe Learning Environment

Teaching Support

Consider this support as you deliver the lessons.



Learning Objectives

By completing these activities, students will . . .

  • Identify and acknowledge their fears.
  • Link feelings and thoughts.
  • Enter a welcoming classroom community.
  • Demonstrate empathy and compassion.
  • Show concern for the feelings of others.

Teaching Tips

  • Fear is at the root of many of your students’ acting-out or withdrawing behaviors in class. When you address fears, you can reduce these distracting behaviors.
  • Your willingness to talk about your own fears and concerns helps to create a sense of safety in your room.
  • Reflect on these questions to examine your own fears as a student and teacher. Use your answers as potential points of discussion with students:
    • In whose classroom did you feel safest when you were a young student? Why?
    • What fears did you have during elementary and middle school? How did you overcome them?
    • How does your current classroom feel? Do you notice any anxious or scared students? Are you radiating the strong, positive energy that tells your students you will protect them?
  • As an alternative to the "fear jar" activity from Day 2, you could share the fears you experienced as a young student. Then ask students if they hold similar fears:
    • How many of you are afraid of presenting in front of class? Raise your hand.
    • How many of you are afraid of being bullied? Raise your hand.
    • How many of you are afraid of _________________? Raise your hand.

Teacher Support:

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Social-Emotional Intelligence:

Standards Correlations:

The State Standards provide a way to evaluate your students' performance.