It is understood that teachers are responsible for the education of the students in their care. Many are unaware that our responsibility to our students goes beyond academics. We are also caretakers, responsible for the wellbeing of the child within our classroom as well as becoming aware of their wellbeing outside of the classroom. In order to exemplify an understanding of professional responsibilities and policies (HOPE standard E3), we must be aware of our role as providers of a safe environment. The Archdiocese of Seattle requires all people who come into contact with youth and vulnerable adults through church-sanctioned volunteer or paid work to complete a Safe Environment training. While the circumstances that led to these trainings is unfortunate, it is beneficial that the Church make its members aware of the signs of abuse and how to respond to suspected abuse. I believe this program prepared me for being more alert to signs of abuse that a student might show as well as behaviors of adults that may be red flags.
Recognizing abuse is a situation we hope we will never have to face, but it is one of the sad realities of being a teacher. It is also an opportunity to step in at a time when a child needs you most. Teachers have a unique role in that they see students almost as much as parents do, but also see a different side of them, perhaps one they would not show their parents or family. In order to work in a public school, I was asked to complete a background check and became familiar with abuse reporting policies for teachers. The Catholic school took it one step further in helping us better understand warning behaviors from both children and the adults who may take advantage of them; they also require annual refresher trainings in order to continue working around children. Even if I do not end up in a Catholic school in my employment, I intend to continue with these trainings, as they have helped me understand my responsibility to my students and have better prepared me for that responsibility.
E3: Exemplify an understanding of professional responsibilities and policies. Teaching is a profession that includes many responsibilities, since we are often a major influence on the lives of many children. While some of these responsibilities are easy to handle, such as watching over the wellbeing of our students when they are in our classroom, there are other responsibilities that may be emotionally painful to fulfill. The one I think I might struggle with most is my role as a mandated reporter for suspicion of child abuse or neglect. For our Professional Issues course (EDU 6134), we read Washington State’s Guide for Recognizing and Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect, shown in Figure 1.
Even when simply reading the text, I was overcome with emotion and fear of having to report abuse in the students with whom I will build relationships. I never want to see abuse in my family, my circle of friends, or my classroom, but unfortunately it is something that could happen, and I have to be prepared for it. Not only will I report suspected abuse because it is the law, I will do it because I care about the people around me and don’t want to see them harmed. If any intervention from the state takes place in the household of one of my students, I will try to continue to maintain the classroom as a safe place to come and be a “normal” child, even while their life may shift around them. It is my hope that I will be surrounded by friends and family that will offer emotional support if I ever have to report suspected abuse. Being able to come home and behave as if nothing had happened is unlikely, but support might help me deal with the emotions that accompany evils such as realizing the presence abuse.
Washington State Department of Social & Health Services: Children’s Administration. (2010). Protecting the abused & neglected child: a guide for recognizing & reporting child abuse & neglect. (DSHS 22-163).