This is a post I wrote in the fall of 2011 about creative a safe space within my classroom, in response to the bullying and subsequent suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer.
. . .
I started my fall semester last week. This year I’m teaching web design and I am truly excited about it. I’ve also been asked to do an independent study with one of the seniors in Illustration and that will be a good thing for both of us. His project is related to sports and social networks, so I’ll be reviewing a lot of designs, wireframes, and their working prototypes. Fun.
One of the things that has been interesting for me, as a new teacher, is pacing. I know that in the beginning of a class, students always feel as if you’re throwing so much information at them (and you are), but I do find that the most challenging thing for me is to balance the information I need to convey to keep the class on schedule, while simultaneously helping them along the way, and answering their questions which sometimes leave me working “off script” and then having to redirect back while still having the class feel cohesive. It’s definitely a challenge.
The other thing I’ve been thinking about a lot, is how to create a safe place for students to ask questions, get help, or to just BE. I know that I teach young adults and not middle or high-schoolers, but it is important to me that my students feel that they can come to me if there’s an issue – at school, at home, whatever. The death of Jamey Rodemeyer yesterday has been sitting heavy with me. No child, no PERSON, should ever have to feel that the only way to get away from people who hurt them is to take their own life. No one. On the first day of class, as hokey as it sounds, I told my students that it was my job to create a safe space for them in my classroom, and I truly believe that. I think it’s important that we establish rules of conduct for our classrooms, and not tolerate behavior that is unacceptable. Hopefully such conduct doesn’t happen, but when it does, it literally takes 20 seconds to address it. It is my JOB to address it.
Twenty seconds. That’s nothing. But it could mean everything to someone like Jamey.