A child comes to class in his elementary school and his teacher notices that he has bite marks on his cheek. Without hesitation, the teacher reports the injury to her superior and the principal. What do they do? Apparently nothing, according to this teacher, and when she asked what would be done, she was told that an agency for protecting children would look into it.
A week or so later, the teacher again inquired about the actions taken to protect this child from suspected child abuse. “He has been transferred out by his mother,” the supervisor informed her. “It’s better for everyone that way.” Case
closed? Apparently because the teacher then discovered that child protective services had only placed a letter beneath the woman’s door and that was the extent of their “protection.”
In another school, a concerned parent noticed that a small girl who had dark circles under her eyes, looked malnourished with sunken cheeks and was lethargic. Passing by the school social worker’s office, she asked about the little girl and expressed her concern. The response she got was less than promising. She was told that it was the school nurse’s job to handle these matters and the social worker wasn’t responsible.
Tell me, was the social worker under any legal or ethical bounds to report any suspected child neglect? I believe she was and pushing it off to the school nurse was in direct opposition to the social worker’s profession’s ethical guidelines and, in fact, was directly counter to the legal system. Anyone with a license, including beauticians, must report suspected child abuse or neglect. Check your state laws.
My stomach turned this morning as I read that a South Carolina teacher threw away an African-American first grader’s shoes as punishment for fidgeting. What are little kids
supposed to do when they are only acting as little kids do? Throw away her shoes? Worse than humiliating for this young child; it is potentially self-esteem stunting and an initial dose of “how to hate school” real quick.
My own educational experience as a child wasn’t without its moments of fear and semi-horror at the actions of those who were to teach us. One teacher, in fifth grade, slammed a young boy’s head into a blackboard so hard that the board broke. The boy’s parents were expected to pay for the damage.
Teachers ruled, literally, with rulers, yardsticks and pointers. Boys were severely whacked on the knuckles with rulers, sometimes with the metal edge, others were struck with yardsticks or pointers. Children were made to stand inside tight coat closets with the door closed, still others were instructed to stand inside trash baskets. Where are they now and how did this affect them? One of my sisters carried a disability for the rest of her life with a neck injury when a teacher, aiming to hit a boy, missed and struck her in the neck with a yardstick.
Early learning experiences stick with us and it’s often hard to shake them. When you’re constantly put down for any response outside the norm, or you are taught not to question but to suffer in silence, you begin to develop a crusting over of your true self. You retreat into a world where you are given little respect and you begin to believe that you don’t deserve respect or the opportunity to grow into your fullest potential.
Who lays down that all-important life template for us and who nurtures it? First, of course, it’s our parents or those who care for us and guide us into our formative years. After parents and caregivers come our teachers who have an incredible amount of power to protect or punish as one did in that case in South Carolina. What damage they can do is immeasurable and the same goes for the good that they can help bring into a child’s life.
I saw a tweet from a teacher today just as I saw that damnable article on the teacher and the child’s shoes. The tweet brought a sense of the possible and it is there that all of
us must go even when it seems things are the darkest. I’ve copied the image from the tweet and provided it here because I think you need to see it and pass it along to everyone you know, teachers, parents or not. Just everyone because we are all teachers in some manner or others.
What child will you inspire today, tomorrow or next week or next year? There will be one who will come into your life and it is your decision to exercise your ability to release the incredible powers within that little being. Will you measure up to the challenge?