Is your classroom an academically safe learning environment? Do our kids ever feel embarrassed or hesitant over asking questions, or because they’re struggling with a task, or because other children are ‘better’ than they are?
This episode focuses on what we can do to help our kids feel as confident and safe as possible.
You can listen to this episode above, listen to it on iTunes or Stitcher, or read the transcript below.
Cult of Pedagogy Podcast
This episode is based on Jennifer Gonzalez’s podcast episode called ‘Is Your Classroom Academically Safe? Jennifer runs the hugely successful Cult of Pedagogy podcast which I highly recommend to all educators. Many of her episodes focus on older kids, but there are always principles we can translate into early childhood. I really enjoyed her discussion on academic safety and decided I’d love to take her points and come at them from an early childhood perspective. Don’t worry – I did ask first!
Thank you, Jennifer, for giving me permission to add an early childhood twist to your discussion on academic safety for kids!
An academically safe environment?
* Is your classroom an academically safe learning environment?
* Do our kids feel confident with our academic expectations and with our homework expectations?
* Are we double- and triple-checking our kids’ understanding through questions, through pair and group work, through demonstration and so forth?
* Are our kids happy to ask questions?
* Are we brave enough to survey our kids and parents to see whether we’re missing something in our own classroom
* Are we willing to find out that perhaps not all our kids feel as academically safe as we want them to be?
1. Do our academic expectations instill confidence in kids?
Do they feel academically pressured or overwhelmed?
It’s all very well for a document (or a parent) to say that by the time a child is 6 they need to have mastered x, y and z skills and have knowledge of certain topics. But what happens when we apply too much pressure on a young child with a skill they’re just not ready to learn?
Do they feel academically safe in this situation? Or will they start to feel insecure, unsure of themselves? Will they ask questions to keep trying to improve? Or will they start to shut down and lose courage? Conversely will they act out behaviourally as a way of avoiding even attempting the work, or pretending that they don’t care about any of it?
Stress impedes learning
When it comes to learning, we need to take the long view approach. We might be able to get Johnny to perform addition to 20 by insisting that he does it day after day, but if that leads to a type of math-phobia or math-resistance then it’s not worth it, because it’s difficult to do well in a subject we actively dislike over the long term.
There’s loads of research showing that for kids to learn effectively, to retain what they’ve learned and to be able to spit it out at a later date, or use those skills later, it’s much, much better if they’re happy during the learning process. Stress, anxiety and fear of learning practically guarantees that a child’s brain will set up a brick wall that impedes that knowledge from taking seed.
We must advocate for our kids
As teachers, one of our most important roles is that of advocate. If the official outcomes are not feasible for a child, we need to do our utmost not to allow that pressure to tra...