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Podcasts | Jan 2020

Feeling Safe: A Core Condition For Learning

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Chloe Thomas, Impact Measurement and Partnerships Coordinator, and Tish Feilden, Co-Founder and Lead Therapist, talk about how we can understand and engage children to help them optimise their capacity to learn.

“I controlled my anger because I felt safe.” Young person, Essa Academy, visited Jamie’s Farm Hereford.

Teaching is one of the most complex and tough jobs, but when going well, also one of the most rewarding. The trouble is, children are not always in the right frame of mind to be taught. Children’s capacity to engage in learning is severely restricted if they are feeling unsafe. Their lack of safety can be triggered all too easily; loud noises, overly boisterous peers, cross teachers, fear of failure, peer pressure, and many more stimulus carried with them from home to school, as well as class to class. Their strongest instinct is survival and the self-defences they employ are not just physical, but also emotional. Fear and anxiety are triggered in so many ways. They result in a child being ‘on line‘ to their emotional hard drive, rather than their thinking, cognitive reflective parts. So much of the challenging behaviour we experience from children is driven by their feeling that they need to ward off danger and protect themselves in hostile environments. Children withdraw as a flight form of survival from stress. They also attack in aggressive ways to ward off what they perceive are threats to their sense of self. The behaviour we may experience from children as obstructive, is often triggered by stirred memories of them feeling unsafe. An angry teacher can remind a child of an aggressive parent. A chaotic classroom can trigger fear of things spiralling out of control, as they may do at home. Fear of failure at an educational task may overwhelm a chid and stop them trying. They may feel it is better not to try, than to fail again, and this time in front of both peers and teachers. Children are often masking fragility. They are masters of disguise and our job is not to take their behaviour on face value.

This podcast explores what happens to children when they feel fear and how we can as teachers, and carers for children, help sooth them in a way to reduce their hypervigilance and create the calm and safe atmosphere they need to help promote learning.

Written and recorded by Tish Feilden (Lead Therapist and Co-founder)