Academics are obviously a primary focus of teachers. Scholastics are definitely important, but we must also look at our students as individuals, not just scholars. Educators seek to help their students to be successful and learn, but we also want them to be physically and emotionally well. It goes without saying that teachers care about their students and their well-being. If students do not feel safe, they will not be successful learners. This falls under the broader topic of creating a safe classroom learning environment for all students. There are many components to accomplishing this. First, you want students to feel safe taking academic risks and making mistakes. This means that you as a teacher need to ensure that students adhere to classroom norms of respect and kindness. Teachers need to take any actions or words that constitute bullying are quickly shut down so that students know those behaviors are not tolerated.
One of the sad but necessary responsibilities of teachers is to report suspected cases of child abuse, neglect, and violence. They also must report when they feel a student is mentally ill and in danger of harming themselves or others (see figure 1)
. This requires attention to detail and communication (see figure 2).
Teachers spend a great deal of time with their students which gives them insight into changes in their behavior and demeanor that are indicative of a serious problem. For some kids, school is the only source of stability in their lives. This is why relationship-building is an important part of a teacher’s job. Making a student feel valued and heard, especially if they are going through something traumatic, makes a profound difference in their lives. It is possible that as a trusted adult in a child’s life, they may confide in you. In these situations, it is vital that the teacher reports their findings and suspicions to their school administrators and counselors. I discussed this issue with my mentor teacher and she gave me some helpful advice. She said you can never be too careful, and it is better to be safe than sorry. She also said it is wise for teachers to make a report in an email even if they communicated the information verbally so they have proof that they did their part.
I did my observations at a middle school in the Kent School District. The district adheres to the Washington state laws regarding the reporting of child abuse (see figure 3). If a teacher has reasonable cause to believe there is a case of child abuse, they have 48 hours to their supervisor who will then get the appropriate authorities involved.
Reporting child abuse is something I hope I never have to do, but I must be prepared to do so. Unfortunately, it is very likely that I will encounter this problem in my teaching career and when it arises, I will do my part without hesitation to keep my student safe.
Classroom Mental Health. (2015). Classroom Mental Health | A Teacher’s Toolkit. Retrieved from https://www.classroommentalhealth.org/
Kent School District. (2016). Kent School District Handbook. Retrieved from http://www.kent.k12.wa.us/cms/lib/WA01001454/Centricity/Domain/10/Substitute%20Handbook.pdf
Suicide Prevention Resource Center. (n.d.). Role of Teachers in Preventing Suicide. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/Dani/Downloads/Role%20of%20Teachers%20in%20Preventing%20Suicide%20(1).pdf