- Restate Standard 5 “Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional and intellectual well-being”
As a teacher, I responsible for making my classroom a place students feel they can express themselves, convey concerns and confide in me. Creating a safe classroom environment is particularly important because it may be the only place students experience that type of atmosphere. Although there are many reasons for which student should feel safe in my classroom, one particular reason is in the event of abuse occurring in their home lives. Ultimately every student should feel safe enough to communicate to me if they are in danger.
- Presentation of evidence with brief description
Above I have included a link for and clip of the Washington State DSHS guide to understanding what child abuse is and what the responsibilities of mandated reporters are. Washington State’s DSHS guide is a comprehensive work which teachers can refer to regarding identifying signs of abuse in their students, how they can support students and what they must do in keeping with their obligation to report their suspicions or verified occurrences.
- Justification of how the evidence connects to emerging competence on the topic
Washington State provides a comprehensive guide to understanding child abuse and how to report such events. Without proper knowledge about child abuse or tools to help assess whether a situation is abusive or not, new educators can feel lost or unsure of what to do. Reading and referencing this tool, teaches can become more competent as well as confidant about how to support their students in these particular circumstances. The better a teacher understand what child abuse is and how to identify it, the more quickly they will be able to identify abuse in their students. As helpful as this tool is for new teachers, this guide is not only for new educators. Veteran teachers must also regularly remind themselves what to look for and how to respond in such circumstances.
- What experience did your mentor have for reporting child abuse, youth violence, and neglect (be sure to omit details in the description, such as names)?
My mentor this past quarter had several experiences working with students who had difficult home lives. She stated she felt confident in her ability to identify conversations as well as physical signs when children in her class were experiencing trouble at home. As a part of pre-kindergarten interviews, this particular teacher had participated in interviewing a family with a male student. During the interview, it was discovered the student lived in a van with his parents. At night, the parents would leave the child alone while they worked, and when they were home during the day the child would sleep or play. Two weeks before this male student was scheduled begin kindergarten, he had not been toilet trained. The teacher and principle then filed a report with DSHS in order for the child and family to receive appropriate support. Although this example of neglect is likely different than many teachers will encounter, as the parents had volunteered this information, educators can benefit from considering how to respond if faced with this predicament.
- What is the protocol and process for reporting suspected child abuse at your school or district?
According to the school website, Edmonds School District employees are mandated to report any type of suspected child abuse to a school authority. This is significantly different than the national expectation for teachers to report any suspicions or confirmations directly to DSHS, filling out all the information themselves. Understandably, there is value in sharing information with administration, however, teachers should also be responsible for filling out the DSHS report, not only to insure the report is filed within 48 hours of the alleged child abuse but also so any details accounted to the teacher are accurately and thoroughly conveyed.
After discussing this significant difference with my mentor, it was conveyed to me how this school district approach is utilized. On any given day a student may come into class at the beginning of school and the teacher could suspect child abuse. At the beginning of the day, the teacher likely does not have adequate time, ability or privacy to discuss, in detail, with the student they believe has been harmed. Therefore, the teachers use a tag-team approach. If an educator suspects issues at home, they will ask office administration to come talk with the child in question and investigate further. The office then files the report. However, if a student tells their teacher directly they are being abused, the teacher will meet with the principle and they will file the report conjointly.
- What are a few ways you create a classroom where students “trust the teacher with sensitive information” (Internship Performance Criteria, description of distinguished from 5.1)?
Two specific ways educators can create a classroom where students feel free to confide in the teacher sensitive information can be found within the Internship Performance Criteria for Seattle Pacific University resident teachers. First and foremost, a teacher should endeavor to develop a safe and positive learning environment. Not only will students thrive academically in such an environment, children will also be more likely to share information that may make them feel embarrassed, scared or worried. Without a safe learning environment, children are likely to remain silent and teachers might easily miss gleaning this important information. Secondly, an educator must work to build a bridge between parents and the school community. By creating a warm and inclusive community, communication tends to be more open, between parents, students and the teacher. When this environment exists, child abuse is less likely to go unseen and undiscovered.
- Implications for student learning
When students feel safe in their classroom environment, leaning happens! Students should not only feel safe from physical abuse from others, but also from emotional or verbal abuse. If such abuse is occurring in the class, students will shut down verbally and emotionally, resulting in an emotional state which is not conducive to learning.
- Propose specific changes or next steps to increase effectiveness in the area under examination
Although teachers are mandated reporters, I propose information on who to recognized child abuse is not addressed regularly enough. Without reminders and regular refresher courses, it is easy for teachers to forget helpful tools that may help them catch “red flags” of child abuse sooner and more accurately. By providing regular exercised in identifying child abuse and practicing asking important questions, teachers can feel more competent and confidant in their role as mandated reporters.