DAY SIX - Tips to Promote NON-JUDGEMENT in the Classroom - By Lori Carson

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In her work on vulnerability, Brené Brown uses the acronym BRAVING to help us remember the behaviours required to nurture trusting relationships. Brown reminds us that “trust is earned in small moments…over time…and cannot be summoned in a command.” In an emotionally safe school environment, there are many small interactions between teacher and student that occur throughout the school day and can foster a foundation of trust in the classroom.

BRAVING stands for: Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault, Integrity, Non-Judgement, & Generosity

Over the next week, I will share a series of teaching tips based on the BRAVING framework. I urge you to share your own ideas in the comment section or through your own submissions to our Blog or Teaching Tips Section of the Centre for Relationship-Based Education website.

Day 1 – Tips to create BOUNDARIES

  1. When creating boundaries and setting limits remember that children are doing their best and that they seek connection, acceptance, a sense of belonging and competence.

  2. Remember that children and youth need boundaries and limits to feel safe at school and thrive when provided a consistent, structured and predictable daily routine.

  3. While students need boundaries, it is natural for them to test boundaries.

  4.  Students (especially young children) need to be explicitly taught about appropriate physical and emotional boundaries and classroom behaviour.

  5. Personal space should be taught and modelled by staff and respected by students and staff. Be clear about expectations.

  6. Boundaries can be taught through games and promoted through the use of visual reminders, prompts and cues. Many students benefit from a personal visual schedule.

  7. Boundaries and classroom norms can be co-created with students of any age.

  8. Limits should be set and maintained in a positive and caring way in order to maintain positive and safe relationships.

Day 2 – Tips to promote RELIABILITY in the classroom

  1. Reliability in the classroom means that students can expect educators will keep their word, follow through and do what they say they are going to do.

  2. Reliable educators are clear and consistent in their words and actions, routines and expectations.

  3. Remember to engage, encourage and re-direct students in calm and patient manner.

  4. When students stray from classroom norms or expectations ensure they know you still care for them and that your relationship rupture can be repaired.

  5. As students develop a sense that the educator is a secure base and source of support, it is important that, when possible, students are informed in advance of changes to classroom routines including guests or teacher absence.

Day 3 – Tips to Promote ACCOUNTABILITY in the Classroom

  1. Provide for students a classroom climate which allows for mistakes and celebrates growth rather than perfection.

  2. Use age appropriate humour with students and try not to take yourself too seriously.

  3. Ensure that students feel safe to make mistakes without fear of punishment. Use natural consequences rather than punitive approaches.

  4. Model for students how to be accountable for their actions. When you make a mistake, either during a lesson or in terms of your own emotion regulation, be sure to offer students a genuine apology so as to promote mutual accountability.

  5. Demonstrate for students how to make amends with peers, classmates and adults. Provide plenty of opportunities for redemption and for students to “save face.”

Day 4 – Tips to Promote VAULT in the Classroom

  1. Make time to listen and learn about your students, taking care to respect their right to privacy. Avoid sharing information about students without permission.

  2. Try to be discrete when having to re-direct or correct students. Avoid drawing unwanted attention when possible.

  3. Even when a student does well and might deserve acknowledgement, it is important to have a sense of whether or not the student will appreciate public praise. Consider seeking consent before sharing examples of good work.

  4. Provide a classroom climate that allows students to feel safe communicating their needs. Engage students in learning how to express those needs in healthy ways. Some students may require an individualized, private system of expressing their needs, one that does not require a verbal explanation – perhaps a break card or a signal.  

  5. Be aware that children and youth are often more intuitive than we realize. Students may feel uneasy or anxious if they can sense that we are worried or upset about something.  Be open, honest and transparent with students when possible and as appropriate.

Day 5 – Tips to Promote INTEGRITY in the Classroom

  1. Develop a classroom culture that values and celebrates truth, honesty and integrity.

  2. Embed the theme of integrity. Provide frequent opportunities for discussion and reflection about integrity across content areas. For example, when reading stories or novels consider the integrity of a particular character.

  3. Engage students in the creation of a classroom code of ethics or code of conduct. Review values, beliefs and expectations to develop an agreed-upon set of norms or agreements. Explicitly teach, model and reinforce behaviour that is consistent with the code.

  4. As the educator, behave in ways that are consistent with classroom norms and expectations. Ensure you are modelling for students how to follow the right path even when it might be easier to take a short cut.

  5. Articulate expectations regarding academic integrity while at the same time broadening the definition of success to include more than academic results. Celebrate courage, effort and kindness and provide opportunities for all students to feel successful at school. Expect and accept errors in judgement and treat these “oopsies” as teachable moments.

  6. Foster an environment that teaches and encourages students to speak up and stand up for their values and beliefs through peaceful and effective means. Celebrate the courage this demands.

Day Six — Students need to feel safe from judgement. Celebrate diversity and encourage empathy in your classroom. Provide opportunities for students to reflect on what it might feel like to be in another’s situation.

  1. Highlight strengths and expect mistakes. Offer reassurance and remind students that we learn through our mistakes.

  2. Avoid the use of sarcasm, criticism or put-downs. Carefully consider how to provide meaningful feedback to your students in a way that preserves relationships.

  3. When providing redirection or responding to an incident, consider your use of language. Does your language support a non-judgmental stance? Problem solve rather than lecture and ask open-ended questions. Use a prompt such as “tell me what happened” rather than, “what did you do”.

  4. Reflect on your own willingness to ask for and accept help. Are you willing to acknowledge and accept help without self-judgement? Do you model and reinforce for your students a willingness to ask for help?

  5. Teach and encourage students to ask for help. This may take time, but through modelling, check in’s and consistency, students are likely to feel safe from judgement and feel safe to ask for what they need.


Lori Carson4 Comments