Domestic violence in the classroom

This NPR story about domestic violence and how it affects every student in the classroom is relevant to me. When students act out, you have to wonder what’s going on at home – but this data is alarming! Is it true that 10 to 20 percent of my students experience domestic violence!? Wow! Based on student behaviors in some of my English Language Learner classes, I think the percentage might be on the high end. Students are often reluctant to discuss what is happening at home, but I have the unusual fortune of getting to know students over many years and, once they feel safe with me, they will reveal what’s happening in their lives. Sometimes it’s shocking. Like the student a few years ago who stopped coming to school because she was worried about her stepfather beating her mother while she was gone. The student rationalized that she needed to stay home to protect her mother. In those days teachers did not have the same reporting requirements that we have today. I referred her to the counselor and made a copy of an essay she wrote – in case Child Protective Services was called in. I don’t know what happened to her, but I hope the cycle is broken now that she’s in the USA where help is available (see below).

It’s early in the school year, and I already see the cries for attention. We have so few counselors for the number of students who need help. I hope to be the one person who shows respect to them, who listens and who cares. I feel gratified that one of my seniors, who had me as a freshman, has written in a letter stating that she always felt relaxed the moment she walked into my classroom. That makes me feel hopeful that this year I can be that refuge again. I really love high school students and I love teaching. It’s a privilege and an honor to help develop the workers and leaders of tomorrow.

Here is a link to Domestic Violence Help in Montgomery County MD: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/circuitcourt/court/FamilyDivision/Domestic_Violence/dv.html#DV-On-line-Resources

Published by

evaksullivan

Eva K. Sullivan is a U.S. State Department English Language Fellow for 2017-2018. The opinions expressed here are entirely her own, and not a reflection of the U.S. Government. Eva is on leave of absence from Montgomery County Public Schools, Maryland, where she teaches English as a Second Language. She is writing a memoir about her experiences as an expat in West Africa in the 1990s.

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