Safe Classrooms

The Safe Classrooms Blog explores how educators and parents can use social-emotional learning to create more accepting classrooms where young people feel empowered to prevent and interrupt bullying. Click one of the topics below to read more.

Back to School – Dealing with Pressure

Ah – so we have hit that dreaded part of the summer. That part, where instead of just beach days you can almost see your classes around the corner. Many fellow high school seniors are just experiencing (if they haven’t already) that universal “oh no I’m actually applying to college” as the Common App opens. And it can all feel a little overwhelming sometimes. As students in 2022, we are faced with constant pressure. There’s pressure for academic success, stemming from your parents… or even yourself. There’s pressure to look a certain way or act a certain way. There’s pressure from all these apps to have that idyllic lifestyle we all see constantly promoted to us. Life is not surrounded by perfect moments though – that’s not reality. There are weeks when it feels like every single teacher has given me a test to study for but somehow, I still have to make time for my part-time job and a million other little things. There are days I feel like I could cry from all the pressure building up. There are even minutes when I seriously consider fleeing the country just to avoid all this stress. There are ways to

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How #Upstanders Make Change

Having spent several years in public education, I’ve often wondered what traits, skills, and strategies help students become successful. I am by no means an expert, but I do believe I can draw some connections between student practices and “success” as best we can measure it. At the Tyler Clementi Foundation, success means being an Upstander and encouraging others to do the same by acting with integrity, kindness, empathy, and compassion; it also means working tirelessly to create inclusive environments in their school, workplaces, or faith communities. In essence, their goal is to make positive change in their community. Our Youth Ambassadors program brings together students from around the country to plan anti-bullying actions in their communities. My role as the program manager is to educate and coach students toward planning successful events, campaigns, and projects. Part of that work includes identifying how bullying is a problem, to whom/where it occurs, and how to best encourage Upstander behavior. Across various school and community contexts, our Youth Ambassadors are deeply invested in kindness, empathy, and compassion for others, regardless of their real or perceived differences. So what does it take to be successful in change-making work? These are some of the skills and

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Introducing Our New #Day1 Toolkits

We are thrilled to share our new and improved #Day1 toolkits with you, our community. For the past five years, #Day1 has helped teachers, group leaders, coaches, and faith leaders set clear boundaries for behavior and create safe, respectful spaces for all individuals. Our #Day1 program has enabled leaders everywhere to honor Tyler’s memory by encouraging others to be #Upstanders. At the Tyler Clementi Foundation, we are so proud of the positive impact #Day1 has had on people around the world. If you haven’t already, we invite you to share your experience with us by e-mailing We also encourage you to renew your #Day1 promise by visiting our website and downloading our new #Day1 materials. View our new #Day1 Here: #Day1 works because it sets clear boundaries and creates emotional safety for all students. It allows you to let students know that both you and their classmates will be Upstanders if they ever notice bullying. Continue reading to learn more about creating emotional safety and setting clear boundaries in the classroom. Creating Emotional Safety “Emotions are important in the classroom in two major ways. First, emotions have an impact on learning. They influence our ability to process information and to accurately understand what we encounter. For these reasons it is important for teachers to create a positive, emotionally safe classroom environment to provide for

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Teaching Students to Recognize Stress

Recently, I spoke with a teacher about the transition back to the physical classroom. Although his students were happy to resume in-person learning, many of them experienced higher stress levels upon returning to a bustling classroom. Our conversation left me wondering what we as educators can do to support students who experience stress. As we know, stress can be dangerous and has the potential to interfere with learning. We can help students learn the science behind how stress works in their body, support them in recognizing stress, and offer tools like emotional regulation and mindfulness activities. By doing so, we allow students to take charge during these stressful situations. Teaching the Science Behind Stress Childhood stress expert Dr. Daniel Siegel uses a hand model of the brain to teach young people about the science behind what happens when they experience stress or anxiety. The idea behind this teaching tool is simple: children and adolescent brains are still developing, which makes them more likely to allow stress and anxiety to take over. By teaching young people about the brain structure and patterns involved, we empower them to use mindfulness techniques to notice and reduce their own stress. In this way, we

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Celebrating Pride in the Classroom

This June, we encourage all educators, coaches, and youth leaders to incorporate elements of LGBTQ Pride into their classrooms. A celebration of LGBTQ history, Pride month honors the Stonewall Uprising of 1969, in which LGBTQ community members publicly resisted police harassment and persecution. Classroom lesson plans can incorporate both LGBTQ+ history and current issues. You can find great examples of those lesson plans at the Anti-Defamation League, One Archives, and Welcoming Schools. Historical lessons might cover Stonewall, activism during the AIDS crisis, the fight for marriage equality, hate crimes targeting the community, and exclusion from societal institutions. Current, topical issues include identity and diversity in Gen Z, transgender identity and issues (including bans on transgender athletes), using correct pronouns, modern allyship, heterosexism causes and solutions, and LGBTQ representation. Of course, these lessons can be taught throughout the year but June is a great time to kickstart these conversations! Modeling Allyship in the Classroom  As educators, we can model our personal experiences as allies- individuals who openly and actively stand up for LGBTQ equality. For me, being an ally means learning from experiences that challenge my heternormative assumptions; listening with an open mind and being eager to learn; offering my support in any way possible; and standing up for LGBTQ+ causes. It

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Using Nonviolent Communication in the Classroom

For this edition of Safe Classrooms, I revisited one of my favorite teacher books called Nonviolent Communication by psychologist Marshall Rosenberg. It’s sold over 1 million copies, so maybe you’ve heard about it or read it yourself. I think this book can provide some strategies for dealing with internal and interpersonal conflict and may be worth reading and sharing with others in your life.  Nonviolent Communication – Interpersonal Harmony Through Dialogue Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is based on the idea that conflict arises because individuals miscommunicate their feelings and needs. NVC has been widely used in psychotherapy and as a self-help technique. And, while it may lack hard evidence of efficacy, some studies suggest it may increase empathy, decrease anger, and allow people to communicate more effectively. It is a simple structure that allows individuals to recognize and take responsibility for their feelings, which in turn promotes compassion, empathy, interpersonal growth, and self-awareness. It has been applied in workplaces, schools, mediation, healthcare, and within the justice system. When implemented with fidelity, NVC encourages members of a community to be more aware of the basic psychological needs of others and themselves in pursuit of collective harmony. So where does miscommunication happen? Instead of expressing our feelings, we are often

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