Ask the Experts

Q: How Can Teachers Create a ‘Safe Space’ for Students?

Trust. It’s a key ingredient to a successful student-teacher relationship – especially for students with ADHD or learning disabilities. Create that feeling of connection and safety within your classroom with these steps.

Q: “How can I make sure a student feels safe with me? Are there any specific things I can do to make sure I have a strong connection with my student?”

Feeling safe and secure at school is so important for children with attention deficit disorder (ADHD or ADD) to succeed. If children are not feeling safe in the moment, they’re not able pay attention or feel comfortable being who they are; they instead feel like a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. To feel “safe,” the student must feel connected to the teacher.

To establish a strong student-teacher relationship, follow these steps:

  1. Make eye contact. It makes students feel seen.
  2. Use the child’s name. People feel so valued when we use their name.
  3. Explore your students’ interests. Ask the entire class, “Could you write down 10 things that you wish I knew about you?” Make it a homework assignment to write about some of their favorite things or accomplishments they’re proud of – anything to spark the beginning of a relationship and a connection.

When you know your students’ interests – if they’re athletic or like music or art – it can infuse comfort into your casual conversations.

And remember, especially at the beginning of the year, don’t worry if all of your students are not making huge academic advancements. It’s much more important that they feel safe with you because, again, we want to keep that big space really open.

[Free Download: ADHD 101 for Teachers]

If they feel connected with you, they’re going to start to trust and take the risks that they need to take to succeed. Very often these kids feel like they’re sitting in the mud; they’re so nervous and so distraught. They need a helping, supportive hand to help pull them out to achieve their full potential.

This advice came from “The ADHD Guide to Productive Parent-Teacher Cooperation,” an ADDitude webinar lead by Cindy Goldrich, Ed.M., ACAC in September 2018 that is now available for free replay.