Lynn Seligman, principal of The Mabin School in Toronto, Ontario, says safety begins in a warm and inviting atmosphere. With students from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 6, The Mabin School aims to recreate a family environment.
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While Seligman says the student community makes physical or emotional altercations very rare, especially with older kids acting as role models for the younger grades, student-to-teacher relationships help too. Small student-to-teacher ratios ensure control of the classroom. And on the playground, teachers have the Peer Mediator students on hand to help with any crisis intervention.
Though uncommon, when social conflicts do happen, they are treated as learning opportunities. When Grade 6 student Sarah got into an argument with her friend, instead of giving them detention, her teacher taught her how to problem solve.
"We sat down and said what we didn't like about what the other person said. And then we decided no to say those things again. I don't think we'd be as close now if we didn't talk about it," Sarah explains. Schools also understand that parents hope their kids can sail through school without any social altercations. But according to Seligman, that's not possible or even helpful.
"That's not real life. We wouldn't be serving the kids well if we could deliver that," she says. "But we're on top of it."