Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional and intellectual well-being.
Teaching goes beyond helping students acquire knowledge and skills. Teachers also use their professional judgment to assess students’ emotional and physical health. These two factors often influence a student’s ability to learn, their confidence, and their sense of security. Creating a community of trust includes the teacher building relationships with students by learning about their interests and personalities.
Figure 1 is a reminder that child abuse and neglect can occur within any group of people. A child’s safety and well-being is a basic human right, so reports made to CPS help ensure children live in safe environments. In 2006, over 78,000 CPS reports were made in Washington. CPS conducted a further investigation in just under less than half of those reports.
Child abuse and neglect is difficult for teachers to think about, yet it is critical to be aware of abuse signs and know how to talk with students if the issue arises. Teachers should regularly review their school district’s policy on reporting child abuse and neglect. In the event reporting is necessary, it is best to be prepared about the appropriate resources and procedures.
At the beginning of the school year, my mentor teacher had made about five CPS reports concerning child abuse and neglect during her eight years of teaching. I visited her class in mid-November and she was preparing to make her third CPS report this school year. In two of the situations this year, the children reported an issue to her that caused concern to find out more information. In the third situation she observed a drastic change in the child’s personality and mood. She has reported physical abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect. The protocol at her elementary school is that the student talks with the school counselor after a potential issue is discovered. By the end of the school day, the teacher and the school counselor notify the principal that a report will be made. The school counselor is generally present when the teacher calls CPS.
While is it distressing my mentor teacher has already made three CPS reports this year, I think it is because her students feel truly comfortable in her classroom. They know she cares about them, which is why they trust her with sensitive information about their personal lives. She allows them the opportunity to express themselves and share stories. She has so many high need students that I think she should try to schedule a regular time for quick check-ins to ensure she is meeting with everyone. There is a 10-minute block when students return from recess before going to either P.E. or music. It has been challenging for her to use that time academically, so that might be an opportunity to meet with students individually.
Teachers start building the classroom’s learning environment beginning with their first interaction with students. The teacher-student relationship is essential for earning students trust and motivating them to excel academically. The school community balances academic growth as well as emotional and physical development.
Washington State Department of Health and Social Services – Children’s Administration. (2010). Protecting the abused and neglected child – A guide for recognizing and reporting child abuse (DSHS – 22-163).