Creating Safe Zones for All Students

K12ArtChat the podcast, Episode 3 Resources

During the Twitter chat and podcast discussion with Paul Kretchmer (@artcombobulated), many resources were shared that can be used when creating safe spaces for all students in the classroom. Following are the questions from the Twitter chat and podcast with the resources Paul referenced during his response. Use the links below to explore organizations that will provide outstanding information for you to use when considering your own responses.


Question 1: Now more than ever our students need us to craft spaces that are safe, predictable, joyful, and inclusive environments where all students have a sense of belonging and significance. Where do you find resources to help you craft such a space?

Question 2: Knowing the children we teach individually, culturally, and developmentally is as important as knowing the content we teach. What ways are you building relationships with students and getting to know them authentically and professionally?

Question 3: GLBTQ+ youth lack positive role models and often use substances to help cope. Who are the positive role models in your campus community?

Question 4: Who is the classroom designed for? How can we use classroom design to amplify the diverse voices of our students? Alternate version: How are your students' lives reflected in classroom structures, routines, and wall space?

Question 5: Do students see artists in your teaching that reflect the faces they see in their daily lives? Alternate version: In what ways do you ensure that students see artists and role models from your curriculum who reflect their communities outside of school?

Question 6: Imagine a world where we asked how someone was doing and they really told us. How are we opening space for assertive, authentic conversations with our students about their true selves? Alternate version: How do you make it safe for students to show up as who they are in class and express their voice?

Question 7: When framing the question, “How Might We...?” how do we ensure the “We” is diverse and inclusive?

Question 8: We must invest in developing emotional trust in order to authentically collaborate. How do we hold space for the classroom community to reflect, express and process thoughts and emotions?

More Thoughts to Consider and Resources to Explore

Consider This: Homophobia affects everyone. Homophobia has serious consequences for GLBTQ youth, including high rates of morbidity and mortality as a result of violence, prejudice, and discrimination; violence directed at GLBTQ youth in schools and communities; isolation with consequent depression, lowered self-esteem, and feelings of hopelessness.

Consider This: If you truly aim to behave as an ally, take a deep breath, recognize your own internal emotional response, put your own needs aside to process later (not with a person of color), listen, ask what is needed from you in that moment, validate feelings, and believe. Think about a time when you were not heard and what you wish you had received. Then do that.

Consider This: Huyssen (2003) reminded us that “lived memory is active, alive, embodied in the social.”

Consider This: Feature inspiring role models. Putting up images—and short stories or quotes—featuring heroes and leaders can help students gain a greater sense of belonging and aspiration, especially when their backgrounds and interests are represented. Strive for inclusion but avoid token or stereotypical representations—they can be damaging to students’ self-esteem (Cheryan et al., 2014).

Stay connected with someone supportive. One unifying factor of the most resilient children in the study mentioned earlier is that they had a support structure. They had parents, guardians, or a teacher that had their back. Other reports and studies have suggested the same.[3]

Consider This: Imagine a world where we asked how someone was doing and they really told us. Imagine a world where there were no masks, only transparency when we talked to one another. If you want to live in a world that celebrates who you are, mistakes and all, take off the mask. It doesn’t mean you have to be positive or fine all the time.

“I’m a firm believer in keeping the focus on what’s really important: the students. If student motivation and higher engagement are truly what we want, we as teachers must adapt right along with our students in our classrooms.” Paul Kretchmer

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