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.
Consider this support as you deliver the lessons.
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.
- 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.