You Can't Spell L-E-A-R-N-I-N-G Without Safety

November 30, 2009
Colored pencils next to a stack of books.

Had an eventful Thanksgiving holiday week to say the least. In addition to the usual activities and events, my father had a heart attack. Luckily, it was a mild one and the doctors reported that there was no damage to the heart. He had to have bypass surgery however and that certainly added to our already anxious state. It got me thinking about how precious the Care, Welfare, Safety, and SecuritySM of family and home really are. Our usual Thanksgiving feast and protocol took a back seat to my father’s care and welfare of course. Without that as a priority no one in my family would have felt very safe and secure.

If you ask most people what the primary role of educators is, they would probably say it is to teach our children. That role, however, takes a back seat to providing a safe and caring learning environment. Without that, both students and teachers will not feel very secure about their own welfare. Teaching and learning will suffer as a result. This applies to our training environments when teaching Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® as I am doing this week in Michigan with a group of 14 educators. If I don’t provide due care to my participants, learning will not take place and I would be providing a disservice to our customers. With that in mind, the following is a list of things we can all do to make sure people not only stay healthy during the training process, but feel safe and secure as well.

Before you even facilitate a training, it is wise to generate a list of safety and other rules you would like your participants to adhere to. Think about your own safety as well. What do you need to do to stay healthy? Some of these are very common sense ideas that most everyone can appreciate. Things like getting enough sleep the night before a training. Eating a healthy breakfast before you begin. Drinking plenty of water throughout the training. Making sure you and your group stretch before the more intense physical elements of the training. Something else you can do before training starts is to assess the physical wellness of the particular participants who are coming to your training. Is there anyone showing up who may end up exacerbating a current injury or jeopardizing their health in any way? You may want to talk with these individuals before they show up so you can either make accommodations for them or perhaps, reschedule the training for them. Their health is your priority. With list in hand, make copies for everyone to read and sign. Some people may think this is over-the-top. But, if you take the rules seriously as an instructor, they will take them seriously as participants. Don’t forget your training environment. What do you have to do to make it as clutter-free as possible while still making accommodations for note-taking and presentation dynamics?

We can carry forward these suggestions during the actual training. Get signed documents of the rules participants have agreed to and make copies for them. Gentle reminders of these rules while training is going on may be necessary. Don’t be shy about stopping an activity if you feel participants are not living up to the agreements they signed. Allow for frequent breaks and rest so people can catch their breath, sit down and hydrate themselves. I like to schedule for about a ten minute break per hour or even more frequent if I see my class is starting to get tired. This is where some of the learning takes place anyway, when participants can sit down and talk about what they just went through. Strong cues and directions from you are a must if you want to avoid injuries. Have a first aid kit on hand to administer aid if necessary even if it is nothing more than a bandage for a small cut. Participants will appreciate the little things you do and that appreciation will strengthen the bond you have with them and result in safer activities as a result. Be sure to document any injuries as soon as they happen and provide copies to anyone who has gotten hurt as well as your own administration.

At the end of the training, show your concern and appreciation by doing a group wellness check. Asking participants how they feel and if they are alright regardless of whether there were any injuries or not is good protocol to have in place. Make sure people have a chance to “wind down” before they leave for the day. Show personal attention (without playing favorites) to those who needed special attention or instruction during the training. Lastly, pat yourself on the back for a job well done and look for areas of improvement if an injury did happen.

This is by no means a complete list and I would like to solicit suggestions from our readers. Please feel free to add on to this by posting a comment. Together we can all make our training environments as safe as they can be and help to create stress-free learning and processing as a result.

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