During my educational career, I have taught over 4,000 students. With my students from fifth to eighth (10-15 years old), I was confronted with bullying between students, fights, illegal drugs, suicide attempts, sexual assault, two rapes. , brass knuckles, knives, a gun and four students. written threats to shoot classmates and staff. I am just a teacher.
In the 90s, when we were teaching eighth grade, at the end of a school day, we teachers learned that a gun had been traded between the class of a submarine ( in our team) and student lockers. The next day I asked students in each of my five classes to write / respond to several posted questions: How and when did you hear about the weapon on our team? What were you feeling? What would have helped you to share with an adult? What could we do to better protect our students, our children?
The innocence, fear and helplessness shared in their writing was revealing and heartbreaking. The students didn’t know how to say it. Students didn’t want to be seen talking to adults, didn’t want to be seen in the offices of advisers or administrators.
The students discussed and created the following: Let the students write notes for me and slip them into my hand as I move around the classroom. Create and place a box near the classroom door so that students can place notes in the box if they did not have their notes in my hand. We discussed how no classmate would know what they shared: questions about their studies, a headache or stomach ache, lack of sleep, parents going through divorce, safety concerns. . We discussed that students did not need to include their name. If they signed their name, I would respond within 24 hours, if not before the end of the day, if not before the end of my planning period. Every day, the students began to slip notes into my hand, to share the challenges they faced or observed; security concerns included intimidation, suicide attempts, illegal drugs, upcoming fights, weapons …. Almost every student included their name, wanting a return note.
I strongly encourage parents and educators to include this sharing of notes in their children’s classes. âUnder the radarâ is a term we use when students are aware of situations before adults. Sharing student notes allowed me to learn about the âunder the radarâ situations our students faced.
The top priority of school leaders, elected officials and communities should be to ensure quality education in a safe environment.
Research reveals that a child needs to feel safe, loved and valued in order to be the most receptive to learning. Academic success increases with the emphasis on safety. Additionally, many students who commit violent crimes, threaten others, or act recklessly call for help. Don’t let their pleas for help be ignored.
We need to effectively ensure the safety of our children and school staff. Safety at school is the right of every child.
Barbara Leland helped build a local Safer Schools team (www.saferschools.blogspot.com), participated in High Point Community Against Violence, served on three steering committees (Our Children’s Mental Health; Classroom Climate; Gang Prevention and Intervention) with the NC Safer Schools Team, and served as the Regional Mathematics Coordinator with the Division of Mathematics of the North Carolina Department of Public Education and as a consultant to six houses of national educational edition.