Teachers are always concerned about the welfare of their students. They also know that disruption in their students’ personal lives affects far more than their academic performance.
While there are many resources available to teachers on the subject of family violence, here are three suggestions that may prove useful.
Children Exposed to Domestic Violence: A Teacher’s Handbook to Increase Understanding and Improve Community Responses (PDF) – This handbook, co-produced by three agencies–Ontario’s Centre for Children and Families in the Justice System, and two US-based organizations: the Family Violence Prevention Fund (now known as Futures Without Violence); and the National Education Association–is a brief but informative guide that many teachers new to the subject of family violence will find helpful. For example, the Handbook lists some of the possible signs that a student may be living with domestic violence, such as:
- physical complaints (headaches, stomachaches)
- constant worry about possible danger and/or the safety of loved ones
- sadness and/or withdrawal from others and activities
- low self-esteem and lack of confidence, especially for trying new things (including academic tasks)
- difficulty paying attention in class, concentrating on work and learning new information
- outbursts of anger directed toward teachers, peers or self
- bullying and/or aggression directed toward peers in and/or out of the classroom
- stereotyped beliefs about males as aggressors and females as victims
The Cruelty Connection: The Relationships between Animal Cruelty, Child Abuse and Domestic Violence (PDF) – produced by the Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. It may be surprising to learn that animal cruelty can be an indicator of family violence or domestic abuse. In the section directed to teachers, the document states:
Children who are deliberately cruel to animals may be abused themselves, and many need intervention to prevent further violence. As a teacher, you may witness various degrees of inappropriate interactions with animals by your students – on the school grounds, on field trips, or with a classroom animal.
A student may disclose an act of animal abuse (by self or others in the home) in discussions or writings. Your response can make a huge difference for the student – and the animal(s) involved.
Finally, the John Howard Society of Alberta has a collection of documents which make up its educational module on family violence. We are interested in feedback on these documents, especially from teachers, so we encourage you to download them and let us know what you think of them.
By becoming better informed and more aware, teachers can make a real difference in the life of a child living with family violence. We hope these resources will be enlightening and useful for you.