Most of our students ride the bus into school. They have a fifteen-ish minute drive in where they can get caught up with friends, play Pokemon with their pals, sit quietly, or just enjoy the ride. Students hop off the bus, are greeted by staff, and walk into a building where they spend more time than they do at home each day. But they come with a lot of “home” piled into their backpacks; baggage that student and teacher sort through together. When a student enters the classroom, they cross the threshold with a variety of expectations, attitudes, feelings… you name it. They come to school, leaving the joy of the weekend in the rearview mirror. School can serve as a refuge from the expectations of the street. Sometimes kids come to school just to see their friends. Often they can’t wait to see the staff and teachers.
The students have to enter your room knowing that it is a SAFE space. They have to know that regardless of their ethnicity, socio-economic background, their sexual identity, political points of view, the list goes on and on, they have to know that they are valued. They are special. Their thoughts and ideas are validated. They can share highs, lows, and everything in-between. They can dream. They can cry. They can grow. They can dance. They can fall. They can come to a place to give and receive compassion. All along the way you, you the teacher, mother, father, friend, honorary grown-up, will be there to cheer them on. You will be there to encourage them. You will be there to hold them accountable. You will be there to teach them. You will walk the walk, talk the talk, and get moving with them every day.
Create a space where dialogue can happen, where it is okay to get off topic and “bunny trail” when the kids NEED the space to be curious. When a safe space is created and honored, kids learn how to communicate, how to be respectful, how to be inquisitive, how to process life… So create a safe space. School is a second home. Build this “house” on a rock of peace, compassion, grace, and kindness.
Mena T. Hill
Educator, Wife, Mother, Colorado Native