By Craig Funston
One of my goals as a classroom teacher this year is to provide a safe place for kids. I say classroom only because that is part of my world; in your case, it could be a class of a different sort or a community team. I simply speak of any sphere where the most vulnerable of our society need a place of refuge.
Kids need this because things can get rough out there–”out there” meaning places where people are. The classroom is a great example, where there can be bullying, or confusion about a concept. In moments of frustration or fear, kids need a person or a place of security.
Because I set the dial for the emotional climate in the room, that would mean that I must be perceived as a safe person—and I do mean person, not merely teacher.
Adults have the same needs, too, of course, and we’ll discuss this next week. Suffice to say (or, just to keep you anticipating), adults tend to hide their lack of a safe haven through a wide variety of means—many of them masking deep-rooted pain.
This “safe” vision actually starts in my personal life—namely, me, in my own home, with my own family. I want my home to be a safe home for my family, as well as for all who enter in. Beyond that, I want to be a member of a safe church, and live in a safe community. Communities make up countries, and, well, you draw your own conclusions.
And the kids that need a safe classroom are the same ones who really need that safety to start at home—but it often doesn’t. I may be naive, but the home is foundation from which all this should be the most evident.
Probably before we get any further, we need to define our terms. Sometimes definitions, at least initially, are best understood by what they aren’t; this gives us parameters for discussion. Within that fold, then, we can clearly define what we’re talking about.
“Safe” is not simply tolerating destructive behaviour that’s breaking the law (at any level). Nor are “safe” actions permissible where anything goes and where there are no consequences. Either one of those terms falls into a liberal, socialistic, and anarchistic mentality. We see enough of that in our “tolerant” culture.
Let’s play with words (surprise, surprise) for a moment here: When I use the words “safeguard, safety net, safe house, and safety valve,” you have a sense that everything is all right, that there’s a sense of security and well-being. So I think“safe person” is an appropriate term.
A safe person (the key to all of this), whether it’s in the home, workplace, classroom, church, and community, is one who allows for failures and foibles, mix ups and mistakes of others–and is there to pick up the pieces. He or she allows said family member, child, friend, colleague—even stranger– to drop their guard, to be free, open, and honest.
This means people in our care can use any given word incorrectly and not get their head taken off; mispronounce another word and not get yelled at. They can give an off-base opinion, dump and dump some more, even whine a little.
People need other people with whom they can think out loud; in other words, vent, opine, criticize, and disagree.
There is real liberty in the freedom of expression, even though some expressions of freedom need to be challenged and monitored. It calls for real discernment on the part of the safe person as to where to draw the line. Too many of us either draw it too soon or don’t even waste time drawing it.
It’s almost like Confession without the religious overtones, victim impact statements without the trauma, or criticism without its wounds.
If we all made an effort to be safe people, and tried to create safe places, I believe there would be a huge upgrade in our families, workplaces, and any other social environment. There would be a huge impact in our financial, moral, educational, even physical lives.
Life is like one big classroom: One, there are a lot of bullies out there; and two, sometimes life is just not fair. It would nice if there was someone we could feel safe with, someplace we could go for refuge.
Do you have that safe place? Are you that safe person?