As a teacher, you are tasked with not only educating the youth of tomorrow but also looking out for them in the process. You soon start to pick up on certain aspects as well. That is, things begin to look eerily off with some students that send out bad vibes or a desperate cry for help.
"My mom was a 2nd grade teacher and had a little boy in her class that would go full redrum and draw crazy things on his dry-erase board. He would write things like kill with images of dead classmates. Upon asking the student why he was writing these things, he just replied with 'she's telling me too.'
The scariest part was the boy was absolutely terrified. He didn't want to write/draw any of these things but felt obligated by this 'woman.' My mom recommended him for a psyche eval and turns out he had severe schizophrenia."
"Had a high school student who was a well-known white supremacist wear a bulletproof vest to school one day. Quietly called administration to come take him from class. His father complained, 'Where in the dress code does it say he can't wear a bulletproof vest?' That was a big red flag. Later that year kid was expelled for extorting money from other kids by threatening them with a screwdriver. A year later, that student got shot in the face and lost his entire nose, and he's now in prison."
"My colleague is a speech and language therapist and was working with a child with very poor attendance at appointments and a very poor background. Kid was 4 years old when she started seeing my friend after her teacher referred her in. The girl had really poor language skills and could barely hold a pen but my colleague noticed her teeth were really really bad and that she drooled a lot. Chatted to mum a bit more about her diet at the next appointment and it turned out the girl wasn't eating solid food. She had only ever been given milk with a bottle.
She was taken into foster care with her little sister not long after that and they will stay in foster care until they're 18. Sadly she had to have most of her baby teeth removed but the couple caring for them are amazing and they're hoping to adopt them both."
"I had an 11-year-old student who was terrible at using scissors and couldn't thread a needle. She had very high grades academically but something didn't seem quite right.
I recommended she receive special assistance and a referral, and it turns out after testing that she had very little spatial awareness and almost no hand-eye coordination. After calling the parents in, we found that her mother was paralyzed and in a wheelchair (only dad had come to parent interviews), and dad was very busy working to support them both, so no one had ever played any physical games or activities with her. She hadn't developed in this area and was intelligent enough to hide these short comings in previous school activities.
Not a difficult fix (lots of time doing crafts, throwing and catching balls, that kind of thing), but something that could have really held her back in the future."
"As an early years teacher the worst thing I've seen is a child trying to 'hump' others. For example:
A child bends over, he walks up behind and thrusts into them.
He gets on top of a child and proceeded to hump them.
Generally walking up behind them and weirdly thrusting his pelvis into others and pinning children down / into corners and doing this.
Sweet kid but that behavior rang alarm bells, I reported it on three separate occasions before a 'report' was taken from me and it went (supposedly) further up the chain. Always suspected his 'sister' was in fact a young mum as the mother was nowhere to be seen (I met her twice in two years of caring for him)."
"My mom worked at my elementary during and after my stay there. She worked as a teachers aid and would help out during lunch. While I was in middle school she told me about a little girl who came to lunch every day with a crummy smushed sandwich and nothing else to eat. Her brother, on the other hand, would get a more acceptable lunch. She said that the first few times they noticed it they would offer milk and fruit to her but the brother would just take it away from her so they had to start waiting for him to finish his own lunch and go outside for recess before they could feed her. I don't know what happened to her after that though, but I felt so much anger at that snot nosed brat. What the f--k was wrong with that family that even the brother was putting down that little girl?
For those of you saying why they didn't stop the brother, the brother would tell the mother that they were helping the girl and she would be even worse off from it. That girl was in the worst position to be in. Basically, he would take the food and tell mommy the adults were giving sister food and she would come in the next day with absolutely nothing, not even the crummy smushed sandwich. As well, I don't know how the story ended and really I don't think I even want to know. I just like to think that my mom and the other teachers were able to do something nice to a sweet little girl in her sh-t life and that they got her to know that someone does care."
"I had a kid my first or second year (so this was 1995-96) who was pretty scary. I teach English, btw. He was just an a--hole; had an excuse for everything, tried to bully other kids, when we had discussions about literature he wanted to derail the conversation into weird territory...hard to explain, but the kid was just off.
At parent conference time, mom came in, and I was careful to say some positive things. Him derailing conversations because 'creativity,' for example. Mom cried and told me no one had ever said anything positive about her kid, before me. She even wrote me a thank you note. I also covered the aspects of his behavior that concerned me, of course.
Anyway, after high school he got arrested for theft, drugs, and assault and spent some time in jail. He committed suicide before he was 30."
"My aunt is a teacher, she worked at a school where there were many of low income students. She was teaching a class of first graders a few years ago and there was a little boy who would frequently ask to go to the restroom. After a while, she got suspicious that the kid either had a physical problem or was trying to get out of doing school work. She sent the boy to the nurse, the nurse said that he was fine and was probably faking it to get out of class. She told the little boy that he wasn't allowed to go to the restroom anymore. This made him upset, the kid started yelling when she didn't let him go to the restroom. She called the parents in for a conference. The little boy fessed up in front of his parents about why he kept wanting to go to the restroom. Apparently, this family was so poor that they didn't even have a toilet in their home, the boy said that he would go to flush the toilet and watch the water whirl. The kid was fascinated by a toilet flush...really made me appreciate the little things."
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"I work in an inner-city school in an under-resourced neighborhood. There are so many red flags every week, I couldn't count them all. One little boy stands out to me though. I greet the kids as they come into school every morning, and one day I noticed a man and a child walking across the lawn to our door slowly, the man getting in the child's face a few times. Finally they reach the door, and the man practically hands his son to me, saying 'Can you make sure he gets to his classroom? He just tried running away from me a minute ago.' I was speechless, but I took the kid, who was quietly tearful, and brought him into the building. I was trying to ask him who's class he was in so I could take him to his room, but he wouldn't talk to me. Finally he said 'I don't want to go home ever again' just as I was getting him through the door, and another teacher stepped in and swept him away, telling him 'we haven't seen you in weeks! Don't cry, we don't do that here!' I know she meant well, but I could tell that it had taken a lot for that kid to say what he did, and I didn't know if he would share that with anyone else. I told the school social worker and can only hope that he's being taken care of now.
That boy broke my heart."
"My mom had a kid who came from a VERY broken home. I can't remember specifics, but he was raised by his grandmother due to his mother and father being incarcerated. He's given my mother some hell by being violent towards other students, violent towards her and other teachers, and even showing violence towards administrators. During centers, the kids are divided up and my mom has a group with her including this child. They read a story about a dog, and my mom used that to segue into some comprehension questions concerning the story. The topic of pets is brought up, and the boy mentions that his sister's rabbit died earlier in the year and that he was the one who killed the rabbit. My mother gets a bit concerned, and asks the boy if it was on accident, and he replies that it wasn't and that he choked the rabbit until it stopped breathing.
My mom quickly had to push the topic to something else because the other kids in the centers' group were noticeably uncomfortable (including herself). My mother began the process to put him into an alternative school for students with emotional/behavioral difficulties, but his mother got out of jail and moved him along with his siblings to Florida just before he was set to begin that school."
"I had a student ask me if I had any old glasses frames she could have, because hers broke. I knew she was in the foster care system, so I asked her why her foster mom couldn't get her some new ones. She told me that her foster mom said she could only get new frames every four years, which made her sad because her real daughter had just gotten a second set of frames that year. I had noticed several other things (the student asked me if I had any extra female hygiene supplies so she could have some at night, so I sent her to the nurse to get extras) that seemed like they should have been covered by the state. I reported this, and it turned out that the foster mom was clearly not providing basic necessities for either of her foster kids. I was really glad I went with my gut."
"I worked in an elementary school for a while, and spent a good couple months of that working as a one-on-one aid for a new kid who was very defiant with undiagnosed anger problems. He'd bully the kids who go out of their way to befriend him, the rest of the class resented his interruptions to the classroom. We tried several variations of positive reinforcement strategies but nothing sticked. We couldn't figure him out. He wasn't very well liked at school, didn't seem to get a ton of attention at home but his siblings at another school were normal. My job as an aid was to basically keep him on track (i.e. keep him organized and correct him when he misbehaved - which was constantly) and be with him at all time, which he understandably resented. He'd try to get to me through physical threats (usually with pencils) and comments like: 'I hate you,' 'X of yours is awful,' 'you'll never be a teacher,' etc.. Teachers in the lounge remarked that he seemed like the type of kid who'd shoot up public places someday. We all wondered what could have happened in his short life to make him this way.
One day I corrected him on the playground at recess and he went into his pocked and removed a 4-inch long, pointy, lock pick, held it up a bit, and glared at me. The glares were typical but the event was especially chilling because it showed an escalation in behavior - premeditation (taking it to school when he knew such objects were not allowed) and intent (flashing it at me in a moment of anger). I reacted firmly and he ran up the playground equipment, and I calmly talked him down, eventually convincing him to show me what he had. Honestly (and this is f--ked up) I was relieved he did this because it was finally some solid evidence to administration that I was in over my head. I was emotionally spent. Some days were so bad that I was hoping he'd stab me so I'd have grounds for not working with him anymore, or at the very least, maybe go home early. I told the teacher immediately after recess and she was nonplussed, didn't tell any superiors (no idea if she told the psychologist), and simply confiscated the lock pick. A few days later I was moved for unrelated reasons. He got a new aid who was instructed to give him more space (I suggested this approach earlier and it was dismissed!) and he seemed to be doing a little better. No longer with the school, I hope he got the intervention he needs. If he doesn't, he's going to be one scary adult. If I ever run into him, I hope he doesn't remember me."
"I work at a gymnastics place. I work with a group of 2nd/3rd grade girls. At the beginning of the year, it was fine, she was really happy, cheerful, got along with everyone. Then one day, she didn't come. Didn't think too much of it, kids are absent a lot. I hardly ever have a full class. But one day turned to two. Then three. Eventually, a week went by when she finally showed up, at least physically. She looked emotionally drained. Like she couldn't walk five feet without giving up. She didn't wanna be there, so I told her she should call her folks at home to see if they can come get her. Big mistake, she went off, saying how I didn't want her there, and that she thought that I thought it 'was the best week since I wasn't here.' Then she went to the bathroom. I couldn't go in there (I'm a guy) so the female teacher went in to being her out. We went into a back room, and asked her if she was okay, to which she started crying. She told me that at the beginning of the year, she was living with her grandparents, hence why she was happy all the time. Then they suddenly died in a car crash while she was at gymnastics. I was horrified. But that's not the end. She said the reason she was living with them was because her parents would abuse her and force her to do sh-t she didn't want to, so they would beat her. Now, I've seen things that should make me cry. My grandmother and grandfather have both passed (on both sides). One of my close friends died to cancer when I was in middle school. It was tough. But the story she told me, it ranks right up there with it. I was about to cry myself. No child should have to endure this type of thing. So the grandfather took her away and brought her out of that life, until they left. It was sickening. After about 45 minutes of talking about it, I convinced her we call the police. She was sent to counseling. I never heard from her again. I never heard of what happened to her or the parents, granted this happened two months ago. I'm hoping one day she'll walk in and I'll see her, happy as she was when I first met her."
"A bit different from some of the others, but I once taught a class of 30 'at risk' 4th graders. They were getting supplementary math lessons, as they were failing their regular math class, and it was rough. It was one of those schools where they have metal detectors at every entrance. On multiple occasions I broke up rather impressive fights. Without conventional weapons, they were really ingenious. One kid once ripped out the three ring part of the three ring binders and attacked another student's forearm with it. Really creative, but obviously not great behavior. I was an untrained and unqualified teacher (I was supposed to be designing after school program curriculum, not teaching). I actually completely missed the 'red flag.'
One kid, I'll call him Darron, was really well behaved. I never had to say anything to get him to sit down, stop hitting other students, stop throwing things, or any of a number of disruptive activities going on in the classroom. In fact, he never did much at all. He spent most of the time dozing off or barely listening, leaning forward and resting his head in his hands. I didn't think anything of it, as the rest of the class was so much for disruptive and destructive, I was spending most of my time and energy just keeping them under control.
Well Darron was quiet and sleepy during class because his house burned down at the start of the school year. The fire killed his grandma (who raised him) and his dog. He was sent to live with his cousins, 12 people who lived in a very small house with nowhere close to enough bedrooms to be legally occupied the way it was. Darron had been depressed and having problems sleeping (sharing a room with his cousins) for the entire year by the time I found out what happened. I learned on the last day of school.
I'm sorry I didn't know, Darron. I'm sorry I didn't notice you were having problems."
"Student told me if he failed his class his father would beat him. I asked him how often that happened, and he told me it happened a lot. I asked him what he meant, like spanking of punching, and he made punching motions. I asked him if he thought that was OK and he told me, 'Yes, my father loves me and wants me to do well. He wants me to be better.' We talked through that learning process and asked if he believed it was a good way, he did not. I asked him if he was scared or needed help, he told me he was OK. He was a child, like 8-13 range. I don't really know the extent or if he was exaggerating, but the messed up part is I teach somewhere where everyone beats their kids. It's legal and common practice, parents can do whatever they want to their kids. I talked to my department head and they were waiting for me to tell them the problem, not even looking at me funny, just not understanding that this was a problem. The kid wasn't the best student and he looked like he wanted to cry when I marked his homework, this led to me finding out why he was scared. I don't see that student anymore. It's weird, people here don't usually talk to their children, the poor don't have the time and have their uneducated parents raise them, the rich hire nannies. A local teacher told me it was good the father was interested. I get that I'm being ethnocentric here, but damn it's hard not to pull a Kindergarten Cop punch out."
"I taught in an autism classroom for elementary age students. I had one student with autism who I suspected had some sort of schizophrenia as well. He would obsessively watch videos of fatal accidents or death scenes from movies like Final Destination, and then work himself up into a massive ball of anxiety thinking about those scenes. His parents were both affluent lawyers who didn't really have time to raise him, so they'd do stupid sh-t like forget to give him his ADHD meds one day, and then give him a double or triple dose the next day.
He started having episodes in 5th grade where he would think he was in one of those videos. He'd scream about his bones being on fire, saying he could feel his skin burning. One afternoon, he snapped and started running around the room screaming he was in a burning subway. He attacked me and one of my assistants, so we had to restrain him and put him in the isolation room. Once he calmed down, he started crying because he felt so bad about attacking us.
I tried raising my concerns with the parents, but they wouldn't hear it. I tried calling CPS for medical neglect of a severe mental health condition, but my principal wouldn't let me because he was afraid the parents would sue. After I left that job, I heard he got expelled for pointing a fake gun at another kid and saying 'I'm going to blow your f--king head off.' This was a few days after the Sandy Hook shooting. His parents petitioned the expulsion, saying his behavior was a result of his autism and the school district backed off.
I keep documents of all of my attempts to warn people about this kid, in case he does something awful someday. The sad thing is, he was a really sweet kid underneath all of his mental health issues. I hope he gets help."
"I have a 7th grade student this year who bugged the hell out of me. He was 'that kid' - he smelled bad, was disrespectful and disruptive, and generally made life miserable for us.
Then, we found out about his background. At a young age, his mother tried to kill him several times. She got drunk and chased him with a knife, and he only escaped by locking himself into the bathroom. She tried to drown him. She used to put out cigarettes on him.
Currently, he lives with his alcoholic father who obviously hates the kid. He told me the other day that he spent the weekend going to AA meetings with both of his parents.
I've made it a point to be kind to him now. I take a minute every day to talk with him and praise every positive action I see. I hope to make school something positive for him, because I can only imagine the hell he goes home to."
"I was grading papers, and one of my students was exhibiting all the red flags that she intended to harm herself in the paper. She had turned it in days previously, and I had seen her looking down that morning, so I rushed her paper down to our school psychiatrist. She moved to pull the student out of class, but she had ditched school halfway through the day. Police were dispatched and caught her literally seconds before she carried out her plan. Thank God I didn't put off grading another day."
"I've seen flags for home abuse, sexual abuse, malnutrition, neglect, un-diagnosed mental illness or learning disorders. We're mandatory reporters, so our only option is to tell an authority (usually an administrator) who will then contact the proper authority for investigation or testing. Then if we continue to see the same sorts of flags, we continue to document and report. Sometimes things get resolved and everyone is happy, sometimes they do not.
Now if you're talking about red flags as to a student potentially harming themselves or possibly others, we see a lot of false flags all the time. I work with middle school kids; it used to be if one of them drew a picture of a gun in a notebook, we had to report it. But these days, my kids all play Call of Duty and GTA 5, so most of the time these drawings or even fantasies they might write about are simply based from the violence they see in video games. But believe me, we do keep an eye on everything. We'll call home to parents and talk to counselor's if we're worried about something, but most of the time it's innocent.
That being said, I have had several students who....concerned me. I had a boy in one class who had been threatening students when teachers weren't around. A call home revealed that not only was he a foster child, but he had been torturing his other foster siblings and even lighting small fires in his house. We eventually, after a lot of hoops jumped through with CPS and the family, got him the help he needed and he was institutionalized.
I also had a girl who would be considered goth by most standards. Lots of black, heavy makeup, obsession with Edgar Allen Poe. She had a strange habit of bringing cupcakes or cookies into class, sharing them and then watching people eat them but never eating them herself. We had a couple one on one writing sessions and I discovered that her home life was in upheaval because her parents were in the process of a divorce. I'm assuming when she watched other kids eat, she was hoping for praise from them that she wasn't receiving at home. All in all she was a weird, but good kid.
I was lucky enough to work in a district that really emphasized mental health, so our kids felt comfortable talking to counselors, administrators, teachers and their parents about what was bothering them."
"Had a kid I taught in preschool who would get unreasonably angry, violent, and loud for no obvious reason. Everything would be fine and then he would totally snap. All we could do when he did was to usher other kids away and wait for him to calm down.
His mom seemed nice enough when I met her and his dad didn't appear to be in the picture (he never showed up, was never discussed by mom or child, etc.) One day, mom didn't show to pick him up. I was the only teacher left, since he was the last kid, and he just sat at the window, sobbing.
She didn't show up until 7 PM that night and our building closed at 5:30 PM. By that time, he was completely inconsolable and it was all I could to do run down to the kitchen with him, make him a sandwich with the director's permission, and let him watch movies on my phone.
Over the course of the next few weeks, this started to happen more and no matter how many times the director talked to his mom, she would continue to come late. Then his lunches started to deteriorate and he would come to school hungry, having not been fed breakfast.
He was only with us for the three months between preschool and kindergarten and I have no idea what happened to him, but the director was paying close attention and (luckily) we never saw any physical abuse. I always brought him breakfast and made sure I had an extra sandwich and Capri Sun for him when I came to work.
That kid didn't go hungry on my watch."
"I had a student submit their personal letter assignment in computer class. In the letter they thanked me for bullying them and making fun of them. They thanked me for being an a--hole and for showing them that they should go and end their life. It went on a lot longer with these themes repeated.
I pulled the student aside and asked if this was a cry for help. The student played it off like it was a big joke.
As a teacher I had an obligation to report. I informed the administration as well as a counselor. Last I've heard the student is doing better, apologized to me, and is working towards telling their parents."
"There was a kid who suddenly started wearing wrist bands and tons of bracelets. I saw him itching at them, and suddenly it clicked that he had been cutting himself. I was only a student teacher then, so I told my mentor, and we found out that he was in an abusive situation, and was basically living in a locked closet at home. He also said he wanted to kill himself. I don't really know what happened to him after that, since it was near the end of my practicum there."