School as Sanctuary: Hooray for Monday

January 11, 2021
By Aleta Margolis, Founder and President, Center for Inspired Teaching

Hooray for Monday is a weekly blog filled with questions, ideas, reflections, and actions we can all take to remodel the school experience for students. 

A sanctuary is a place of refuge or safety. Schools – even virtual ones – are designed to be safe places for growth and learning, for building community and skills, and for understanding the basics and beyond. There’s comfort in knowing that math class and science lab and literature circles will always be there even in the midst of chaos in the outside world. However, providing refuge and safety doesn’t mean shielding students from painful events (a task that would be impossible to accomplish in any case in the age of social media). School must be a place students can turn to for support and clarity during times of crisis. In the past few days, many thoughtful teachers and school leaders have cleared space for students to begin to process and understand the events of January 6, even as we ourselves are still very much struggling to comprehend them.

This moment in time offers an opportunity for teachers and parents to model ways to navigate uncertainty. We shouldn’t expect ourselves to know all the answers. No one does. No one can fully explain what happened, why it happened, or what’s going to happen next. But what we can do is show our students that school is a place where they can puzzle through things that are scary with their teachers by their side supporting them.

Last week I published a piece that offers a list of questions teachers can start with in exploring the events of the past week with students. Here are some other steps you can take to make your classroom a safe place for learning, for your students, and for yourself:

  • Clear space in the schedule and invite your students to talk about what they know, what they want to understand, and how they feel.
  • Support students in naming and expressing their emotions. In a developmentally appropriate way, let your students know how you are feeling too.
  • Continue to focus on equity – including putting protocols into place to promote equity.
  • Take action: invite your students to write letters to their representatives, thanking and/or challenging them for their actions this past week.
  • Incorporate music into your in-person or virtual classroom.
  • Remind your students and yourself that beauty still surrounds us. Right now, many of the things we don’t understand are scary. But some things we don’t understand can be beautiful. We benefit from experience with the unknown when we learn how to think about and process things that are out of the ordinary.
  • Make space and time to process the unfolding events, but don’t abandon routines. Routine and predictability can be comforting and stabilizing – for students and for teachers too.

And as you strive to be a healing presence, and to create a sanctuary for your students, remember to take care of yourselves. 

[showmodule id="1045"] [showmodule id="140"] [showmodule id="141"]