Sunday, February 21, 2010

Safe Space

I try to hold myself back from responding to every reflection, what-if scenario, or interview question relating back directly to my work as an RA, but it's such an all inclusive job that has influenced me in nearly every situation. I come at this week's blog with the perspective of someone who has been in the role of being in charge of/guiding/mentoring groups of 30-50 young females in the dorms. I have had students come and share many confidential things with me, and thus my best guesses as to how i'd handle things in the classroom is a result of how I have dealt with situations in the past.

If a student "came out" to me, I would first thank them for trusting me and reassuring them that what they told me would not be repeated to others without their permission. I would ask them if there was anything i could do for them to support them, classroom atmosphere etc.. If the student hadn't come out to their family and friends, I would suggest they consider why they hadn't, and how they could come to the point of being open to that idea in order to be honest with the most important people in their life. Depending on the school or community, I could ask or recommend counseling if the student was interested, if they wanted to share with someone else.

As far as making sure my art room was a safe space, I would encourage students to carry themselves with an attitude of acceptance. In the dorms, I have done a lot of passive programming (bulletin boards, bathroom stall fliers etc) that educate students on how to use accepting language and how to avoid offending someone-intentionally or accidentally). Hanging a safe space sign could help students identify me as someone they can trust (interesting side note, the Department of Residence at UNI offers training sessions on safe space allies, but they created their own logo...I don't know if it was part of a national trend? but perhaps the pink triangle is changing? does anyone know?). In the chapter we read for this topic, there were many instances of teachers not defending students, or stopping offensive language or behavior. I would hope that I would never fall into that behavior myself and that I would stop harassment if/when it occurred in my presence, classroom, or school.


  1. I really like what you said about creating an accepting atmosphere within your classroom using simple signs and "passive programming." Very subtle but presumably very effective. Like they say, the best way to teach someone is by not letting them know that they're being taught.
    It's pretty cool that you have experiences as an RA to draw upon, and I don't think there's anything wrong with applying them to your teaching. Keep up the good work!

  2. I totally love your post and Jim's comment. I also think that your experience as an RA will prove to be invaluable. Hanging a safe space sign would be a great idea. I have not seen the pink triangle in a number of years in relation to the identification of safe spaces. I think now most of those spaces are represented by signs that include a rainbow.