In this article, Aileen Pablo examines the issue of classroom safety, especially regarding younger students. So often, we take basic safety knowledge for granted and forget that we learned those lessons at some point.
Teachers and schools aren’t just responsible for educating children; when kids are in their “custody” for the school day, they are also legally tasked with keeping them safe.
Unfortunately, that’s sometimes easier said than done when you’ve got hundreds of excitable little ones who are far more interested in playing around. And with the youngest kids, they may not even have a sense of basic safety or know how to keep themselves out of harm’s way. Because of these things, it’s all too common for children to put themselves at risk, and if injuries occur, it can mean a lawsuit for the teacher, principal, and even the education department itself.
That’s why many teachers clearly post safety rules in the classroom and integrate lessons on dangerous or unhealthy behaviors into their regular curriculum. Just what kinds of safety lessons are there for young kids to learn? A lot!
Obviously, schools try to minimize the number of dangerous objects that kids have access to, but for youngsters, lots of everyday things can pose a threat. For example, there’s the old rule about not running with scissors. As adults, we take things like that for granted, but very young kids don’t understand why that’s such a big deal and need to be told.
Teachers should explain that kids need to walk with the sharp end pointed at the floor to not only avoid hurting themselves, but also anyone in front of them if they trip. This goes for other sharp objects, too, such as pencils and math compasses, which can be truly lethal. Moreover, it’s important to educate them on why they shouldn’t put sharp objects like pens and pencils in their mouths when walking, either.
While it is likely that most parents have warned their children about strangers, it’s never a bad idea for teachers to reiterate this information and keep a look out for adults who hang around the school. Typical lessons involve not getting into cars with strangers, not taking food or other objects from them, and calling out for an adult you know if someone scares you.
This one is a bit broad and unfortunately difficult to completely control, because if there’s one thing kids want to do, it’s run around and play. However, getting too rambunctious – especially indoors where they’re not meant to be running around – can lead to a variety of injuries. Some of these are caused by one student accidentally hurting another, while others are a simple case of clumsiness – but it probably doesn’t seem so “simple” when the result is stitches or a broken bone.
This is why it’s so important to not only talk to your students about the negative things that can happen, but also create rules and attach punishments to them if kids don’t obey. Sure, you’re still bound to have some problems with things like spitballs and even minor fighting, but after they’ve been in timeout, detention, or had to write a paper on what they did wrong, most kids get the message.
Depending on the type of bad weather that affects them most, schools have been holding tornado, earthquake, and other kinds of drills for decades. Teachers can reinforce these lessons by including classroom safety rules as well as simply teaching about the dangers of different kinds of weather when the class is learning about that particular type of weather in general.
The various kinds of viruses and sicknesses that pass through the halls of just about every school are often overlooked when teachers are planning rules and discussions on safety, but they’re actually one of the most important. Think about the number of kids who are likely to break an arm when compared to those who will get the flu from another student – illness is far more prevalent.
Classroom rules and lessons on sickness should include things like always washing your hands after going to the bathroom or playing with classroom toys, turning away when you sneeze, and coughing into your hands. And, of course, there should be an emphasis on staying home if you have something that’s contagious and not sharing foods and drinks with other students.
One last note about illnesses involves changes due to HIV and AIDS. Kids need to know that they should never touch another student’s vomit or blood, or handle any discarded needles that they find. And when teachers have to deal with those kinds of substances, they should use latex gloves to set an example.
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