How teachers can create a safe space for student voices

When students feel empowered to share ideas, they become active participants in their educational journeys. But it’s not always clear how to get students to that mental place where they feel empowered to share ideas and to contribute to the discussion.. So how can educators create an environment that gives students a voice? How can we make the classroom a safe environment for students to express their ideas and ask questions?

It’s all about the two Rs: relationships and routines.

Building meaningful relationships

Developmental relationships are the foundation for student learning. Studies by the Search Institute have demonstrated that when young people experience developmental relationships with adults, their social-emotional competencies and academic outcomes—such as connection to school, academic motivation, and grades—are significantly stronger.

Through developmental relationships, students:

  • Identify who they are
  • Develop the abilities needed for them to grow 
  • Discover how to engage with and contribute to the world around them

The more an educator can develop this type of relationship, the more students trust what’s happening in the classroom. That’s why it’s so important for educators to take the time to really listen to students and to share a piece of themselves. It comes down to communicating, “We’re on this ride together.” If students understand their teachers have their back, the classroom turns into a place of respect and safety.

If building this type of relationship sounds good in theory but daunting in practice, let us help. With Along, educators get instant access to research-informed questions and ready-to-use resources. The Along Content Library offers reflection questions that help students open up about topics like managing stress and staying motivated. So, go ahead, start with a reflection question and see how the relationship builds from there.

Creating routines 

When school is predictable, there’s less for students to worry about—or even fear. We all feel better when we know what to expect. Something as simple as giving students the same place to put their backpacks, having them sit in the same seats, and, yes, following the same classroom rules…these rituals turn a chaotic school day into a place that is safe and secure. 

Part of developing a successful routine is implementing regular check-ins with your students. (You guessed it, we suggest scheduling your one-on-one on the same day each week.) This check-in gives you and your students a moment to sync up and learn what’s happening behind the scenes. Whether face-to-face or using Along, check-ins allow space to discuss challenges and promote thoughtfulness in students. 

One way to go the extra mile is to ask students what routines they’d like to see implemented in the classroom. When students have a say in how their learning unfolds, they’re more likely to engage further. You can even ask them through Along by creating your own reflection question. Consider trying this activity from Along’s Content Library to help structure your conversation.

In addition to Along, there are a number of creative ways to make students feel safe and seen in the classroom. Whether it’s additional digital learning tools, art projects, or classroom town halls, consider what ways feel authentic to you and your class. 

Need more inspiration? Log in to your Along account and visit Along’s Content Library for even more ways to get the conversation started.