Committee for Children Blog

The Call

On the first Friday of my first week in my first year of teaching, I had to make the call. “Peter” came to school with a huge bruise on his forehead. I asked him what happened, and he said his dad hit him. There was further discussion, and as a first-year teacher, I had to make the call right then and there. Not just the actual call to Child Protective Services (CPS), but the call that as a teacher, I would do anything in my power to keep children safe – physically, socially, and emotionally.

You see, “Peter” and the other Peters and Sallys that would come after, were being hurt physically, but possibly more important were the internal “bruises” being that went unnoticed. It is very hard to describe the size, color, and location of these bruises on these children's hearts, but damage was being done. Every day children are being put down, made to feel unworthy, punished, criticized, and feeling left alone, striped of any type of self-confidence or self-worth. And oftentimes the people doing this to children are the very people who are supposed to love them the most in all the world.

As a first year educator, I had to decide. Was I going to be the teacher who lets my students feel this way, gives them no outlet to express it, doesn't notice their feelings, doesn't recognize their emotions, and ignores this emotional part of them? Or was I going to be the teacher who listens, gives students opportunities to share emotions, creates points of connection with book characters, gives them opportunities to write about these bruises, offers up my own stories of tough times, gets them professional help when needed, works with their families to support their emotional and social efforts, encourages students' special abilities, and appreciates them for who they are?

Students need us. There are many children that we see who are abused each day, but there are even more – that we don't or can't. We must integrate social-emotional skills into our classroom so these children have a safe place to heal and grow and a safe person to count on. We may be the only safe adult they have. Yes, there are academic demands placed on us as educators, but first and foremost we must meet the social-emotional demands of children.

I am hopeful for a world where no first-year teacher will have to report child abuse on the first Friday of the first week of school. I am hopeful for a day where bruises on the outside are no more. No Peters. No Sallys. But I am even more eager for day when the bruises on the inside of our children are gone. Until then, as an educator, promise to do what you can to keep children safe, physically, socially, and emotionally. Make the call.