5. Learning Environment – The teacher fosters and manages a safe and inclusive learning environment that takes into account: physical, emotional and intellectual well-being.
Program Standard 5 is very important to consider as a future elementary teacher. Teachers need to be aware of each student in the classroom and what they might be going through when they are not at school. Child abuse inside or outside of school can be very harmful to student self-esteem, self-regulation, and academic achievement. Fostering a safe and inclusive learning environment is especially important when dealing with issues of child abuse or neglect.
According to the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (2010), “In 2005, 3.3 million reports were received by CPS agencies in the United States alleging that children were maltreated by their parents or guardians. Nationally approximately 1,460 children die each year as a result of maltreatment” (p. 1). These staggering figures indicate how important it is for teachers to be able to recognize the warning signs of abuse or neglect, as described below in Figure 1.
In EDU 6942 Autumn Experience, my mentor teacher indicated that in her approximately ten years of experience, she had to report suspected child abuse twice. She said that typically her responsibility has been to contact the school nurse, principal, counselor, or other school administration to report suspected abuse.
Seattle Public Schools requires that all school employees report suspected cases of child abuse, neglect, and exploitation by any person to the appropriate school administrator. A district official must report to child protective services (CPS) or other law enforcement agency within 48 hours (Seattle School District Superintendent Procedure 3421SP, 2012).
It is important for students to be able to trust their teacher and feel safe, valued, and welcomed in the classroom. I believe in being a warm and caring, yet firm teacher that has high expectations of all students in order to foster student grit and resilience. According to Bondy, Ross, Gallingane, and Hambacher (2007), “protective factors that bolster resilience are social competence, problem-solving skills, autonomy, and a sense of a bright future or purpose” (p. 345). In addition:
Elements of a positive psychological environment stressed by Patrick et al. are strongly grounded in respectful relationships, meaningful tasks, and the teacher insistence necessary to guarantee each child an environment of care, calm, support, and respect where he or she will succeed. (Bondy et al., 2007, p. 345)
Getting to know my students as individual people and what their interests are is important for building a good relationship. When the classroom environment is positive, well-managed, and inclusive, students can thrive and academic achievement increases. Students should be able to trust their teacher to be a responsible adult, notice when something might be wrong, and address it.
The next step in my journey of becoming an elementary teacher is ensuring I am providing a safe learning environment for my students by recognizing signs of abuse or neglect. Building a trusting, caring relationship with each student is very important. I hope to be a good role model for them and teach them empathy, compassion, caring, and respect.
Bondy, E., Ross, D. D., Gallingane, C., & Hambacher, E. (2007). Creating environments of success and resilience: Culturally responsive classroom management and more. Urban Education, 42, 4, 326-348. doi: 10.1177/0042085907303406
Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Procedure 3421SP. Child Abuse, Neglect, and Exploitation Prevention. (2012). Retrieved from https://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/School%20Board/Procedures/Series%203000/3421SP.pdf
Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. (2010). Protecting the Abused and Neglected Child: A Guide for Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect. Retrieved from Canvas.