Teaching is not just about preparing a lesson, presenting it, and grading papers. You are also the eyes and ears of possible student problems at home. It is a teacher's duty to be on the look out and recognize trouble. It is not something teachers like doing. But it is part of being a teacher, and in most cases, you are legally obligated to report certain troubling signs. The following is just a handful of troubling signs that may warrant more attention. Teachers should not ignore them.
Probably the first and obvious sign of trouble you can detect is a sleepy student. This is not just a case of a lazy student. Students are young and should be full of life. If they walk into your classroom groggy, listless, and can't stay awake in class, this is trouble.
The second sign of student problems is hygiene. Not just hygiene, but overall student cleanliness. Granted, a lot of students like wearing torn and dirt clothes, but there is a difference. If you notice a student wearing the same shirt day after day, and it gets dirtier, there may be problems. Student showing up with filthy faces and smelling is a sure sign. You see your students on a daily basis. You should be able to tell when they are lacking in basic hygiene.
Teachers need to be on the lookout for changes in behavior. You know your students just about as well as anyone. Do they suddenly change? If they were a polite student, are they now belligerent? Have they stopped doing homework? Are they showing up late to class all of a sudden? Do they now come unprepared to work? Do they look sad and uninterested? Do you notice them crying? Look for sudden and drastic changes in students' behaviors.
You must report child abuse. If you notice any injuries that just don't look like normal childhood injuries, you may need to report it. This can include things like bruises. Teachers do walk a fine line here. It may be hard to tell whether an injury is normal kid stuff, or abuse. However, abusive injuries are probably easier to detect. They just don't look or feel right. If you see injuries and any of the above, the combination may be quite telling.
Here's a couple of other tips for teachers and student problems.
Do they come to school in the winter without a coat?
What do their shoes look like?
Do they seldom have paper, notebook, pencils, or other common school items?
Remember, it's not about getting the parent in trouble. Many cases parents just can't get a handle on things, or cannot afford them. There are agencies that work with families in ways that help them, not punish them.
It is your duty as a teacher to be the eyes and ears of the welfare of your students.
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