June 1, 2017

A Crucial – Yet Overlooked – Responsibility

By Alexander Garey

What are the responsibilities of the school?

This is actually a fairly difficult question to answer as the responsibilities of schools often differ based on the needs of the students and surrounding communities. I believe we would all agree that teaching students and moving them forward in any way would be one of the main themes we would hear if we surveyed educators. Academics have overtaken the educational system since before educational institutions were even officially created. Even according to Merriam-Webster, the definition of school is “an organization that provides instruction: such as an institution for the teaching of children.” As an educator, I also believe that academics and learning are some of the most important responsibilities of the school system, but what about safety?

Where does safety fit?

I want you to try something. Go to any search engine and search for images of this term: “school responsibility wordle.” For those that may not know what a wordle is, it is a collection of terms that are often used to ‘define’ a specific theme where the larger words have a greater impact on the definition. What you will find won’t exactly shock you; you will see that many of the wordles have terms such as learning, students, teachers, creativity, academic, technology and many more. Although it is in some of them, what you will be hard pressed to find in most is one word: safety. Safety in schools is one of those underlying responsibilities that everyone has, but it is also one of those things that is not often discussed until after something happens.

As a former second grade classroom teacher, it was a true hassle to work through safety drills or deal with the safety of students when one of my co-workers was out of the building. The issue wasn’t that the substitute teachers were incapable of working effectively in safety situations: the issue lied in the fact that they were often ignorant about what was expected of them as they were not the normal staff in that building. There needs to be a better way to train substitute teachers of what to do when it comes to emergency situations, and this feat is even more difficult for larger districts.

What is your school’s responsibility when it comes to safety and how do you help ensure substitutes are prepared for emergencies?

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Alexander Garey

I think it is extremely important to remember that we all have a role in the safety of people in our buildings. Not just the students, but to each other too.

Substitute Teachers!!!! That’s looking at a wider bigger picture often overlooked! Making sure they know how to respond certainly needs to be addressed more frequently and is something I definitely need to look at closer.

I agree with Alex. People, parents, and the media often place the blame of safety on schools after the fact. It is a constant thought in todays world, but there are too many “what if” scenarios to overcome. NaviGate prepared helps solves a lot of those issues.

The article makes a great point about substitute teachers not know what is expected of them in an emergency situation. I think that we often forget about our entire group of substitute employees. A substitute one-on-one paraprofessional educator not knowing what to do can create an extremely unsafe situation. The substitute custodian who does not know how to turn off the HVAC system could prove to be hazardous to all building occupants.

Mark Pompano

Yes, substitute teachers need to be trained, but teachers/staff who travel from school building to school building need to be trained in each building’s emergency response procedures.

I think of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs when I think of school safety. Students and staff alike need to feel physically, emotionally, and psychologically safe before they will be able to engage in teaching and learning. School safety provides the foundation upon which quality instruction builds and thrives.

TJ Dorsey

I am not surprised at the words generated. We consistently are questioning how to utilize the substitute teacher in regards to a crisis.

Jason Greathouse

Great insight and well thought. Get the subs involved and ready.

School safety should be the #1 goal for our schools. Without being or feeling safe learning is hampered