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Teaching Strategies: How to Spot Trouble at Home

Janelle Cox

Part of a teacher’s job, besides making sure that their students are learning and handing in the homework on time, is to use teaching strategies to spot if there is trouble going on at home. Sometimes it can be quite easy to spot; when the child’s grades are dropping or their behavior is changing. Other times, it may be a little bit harder. Many teachers feel uncomfortable bringing this issue up to their students, or having to call the parents and question them about it.

However, as uncomfortable as it may be, as a responsible adult in the lives your students, it is your job to be diligent to use teaching strategies to look out for the best interests of your students. Here are a few signs of possible trouble at home to look for in your students. If you do see any of these signs, please take a moment to talk to your students and their parents. It is also wise to get the school guidance counselor involved if need be.

Teaching Strategies: Sudden Change in Behavior

A sudden change in behavior is quite obvious but needs to be addressed. An abrupt change in behavior is usually a huge red flag that there is cause for concern. As the teacher, you are with these children the majority of the day, and you get to know each and every one of them very well. So, you will know right away if something in their temperament changes. If you see that your student’s grades are dropping, or your normally happy-go-lucky student is now not talking or smiling, then you must act right away. Take a moment and talk to the student alone, call the parents, and together figure out a strategy that works for them.

Child is Not Prepared

Observant teachers can notice the outward signs of neglect at home in an instant. These signs can come in many forms, not just a missing homework assignment. If a student mentions that they are not eating breakfast, or you notice the student doesn't have their lunch with them or money for a lunch, then you need to step in and support this child. Or, if a student doesn't have basic school supplies, then you need to make arrangements to provide them with some. Young children are at the mercy of the adults that are in their home. If you notice that there is a gap in the care that they are receiving, then you may need to step in and advocate for them.

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Visible Signs of Injury

This is the scary sign that no teacher wants to see. However, teachers are legally bound to report any subjected child abuse. If you see any suspicious bruises or any other signs of injury, then you need to report it. You can first see if the student wants to talk about it, just so you can get your own personal reading of the child. But it is always best to hand things like is over to someone who knows a little bit more about it.

Student Talks About Abuse

There is nothing more sad then to outwardly hear a child talk (or overhear a child) talk about a parent hitting them or being left alone without any supervision. This obvious and clear sign of trouble at home means that you must report it, even if you think you may have heard the child wrong. It is not your job to determine the veracity of the child’s statement, it the job of government to investigate accordingly.

Inadequate Clothes

Be on the lookout for students who wear the same clothes day in and day out. Also, be on the lookout for the students who don’t have a winter coat or their clothes are way too big or way too small. If the parents are unable to properly supply their child with the appropriate clothing, then you can find a local organization that can help. You do not know what the child (or their family) is going through at home, so you will want to find out and do whatever it takes to help them out.

Sleeping in School

Sleep is a huge part of a child’s well-being, in addition to their nutrition. If you see that a student is having a hard time focusing and he is dozing off during class, then you need to talk to the school nurse and the parents about coming up with a plan for getting the child more sleep. According to research, children the ages of 3-6 need up to 12 hours, while children ages 7-12 need 10 to 11, and children ages 12-18 need eight to nine hours.

Lack of Cleanliness

If a student shows up to school looking and/or smelling dirty and has sub-standard personal hygiene, this can be a sign of neglect in the home. If this readily noticeable to you, then it will also be noticeable to the students’ peers. This means that they are more apt to get picked on. Cleanliness and personal hygiene is a health issue, and your school nurse can help you with this. You can also do a health lesson on this issue, which can help the child understand the importance of it, and they can take this knowledge home with them to pass on to their parents.

Do you have students that are need of help? If so, how did you spot the signs? Please share your experiences with this situation in the comment section below, we would love to hear your stories.

Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for, as well as a contributing writer to and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.