April 20, 2022

Educator Monica Malmquist Answers Your Questions
This Child Abuse Prevention Month, we asked our Partner Professionals to talk with us about their areas of expertise and answer questions about how to prevent abuse, neglect, and trauma by supporting children and families in building resilience. Ask your question now and we'll make sure it gets answered!
Ask a Partner Professional a Question
Today we talk with Educator and English Language Learners Specialist Monica Malmquist. Monica works with English Language Learners at an elementary school in Mill Valley, California.
Welcome, Monica, thank you so much for being part of our Partner Talks.

I'm so happy to be here!

You are an elementary school educator. I'm sure the past couple of years have been quite a whirlwind for you. As students come back to school and things start to return to some semblance of normalcy, how are you helping kids to cope with being away from home? Are there particular ways that teachers can help kids address fears and learn how to keep themselves safe and resilient?
Yes, the kids are back in school and things are getting back to normal in some ways, but the kids have been through so much. Being at home and away from the social life of school has meant that the kids have less community in their lives looking out for them. In many ways, community—teachers, counselors, principals, etc. can contribute to helping keep kids safe. For example, teachers can look out for signs of abuse and neglect, and can help teach kids about what is safe and what is not.

Do you have particular tools that you use to teach kids about safety?
I like to gather the kids in a group activity of thinking aloud together about safety. We can go over safety words, body boundaries, and how to say no, get away, and tell someone if anyone ever tries to touch a child in a way they don't want. This helps kids to feel safe in opening up and talking about their own lives, and thinking about the adults they can trust if they ever feel unsafe or just need to talk. One activity I did with my students recently was helping them to create a Network of Support. 
Tell us about the Network of Support. How did you use that with your students?

The Network of Support provides a way for kids to think about the adults that they can count on, people that they trust that they can go to if they need someone to talk to, or if anyone ever tries to touch them inappropriately or hurt them in any way. By filling out a Network of Support, kids have a roadmap for getting help if anything comes up. It's a great exercise for everyone to do—it's nice to know who we can trust.
Can you walk us through how you do it?
Sure! On the 'My Network of Support' page of these free downloadable activity sheets, the character Telli (who encourages kids to tell someone if anyone tries to do anything bad to them) is surrounded by 8 circles. In each circle, kids can fill in an adult that they can trust, like a teacher, firefighter, doctor, aunt, uncle, or parent. There may be others to add to the network of support, like a neighbor, a police officer, or a religious leader in the community. Kids can add anyone that they feel safe with. These are the people they would go talk to if they needed an adult.
That seems like a really helpful thing for kids to think about and know. Do your students like creating the network?

Students really seem to like it. A few students have told me that it's a fun project because they get to talk about people that they like, that they like using their Spanish to write the names, and that they get to color. Some students tell me that it's a lot more fun than tests, and I would agree with that!
I would agree with that too! You mentioned that kids like using their Spanish to write the names. I know that as an English Language Learners Specialist, you work with a lot of students who speak other languages and who may prefer to create their Network of Support in their first language. How do you help them with that?

Fortunately, the Activity Pages and the Network of Support resource is available in 23 different languages, so kids can usually create their network in their first language, and can feel like it relates to their home life. It's great to have ways for children to feel like their home and their community are connected in this way, that both are invested in keeping them safe.

Do the kids have a sense of why the Network of Support is important? 

They do! Here are some of their responses to that exact question:
  • “This reminds me of who I can tell when I need help.”
  • “This shows us all the people that care about us.”
  • “If I get scared, I know who I can tell.”
  • “When someone hurts you, you can get a person to talk to your parents.”
  • “You can go to these other people if someone is busy.”
  • “These are people who can help you find what you need.”
  • “When your mom goes somewhere, you need other people.”
These are so great, Monica, thank you!

Thank you for the wonderful Safety Awareness Education materials!
“By filling out a Network of Support, kids have a roadmap for getting help if anything comes up. It's a great exercise for everyone to do—it's nice to know who we can trust.”
—Monica Malmquist
To order your Safety Awareness Education Materials, please visit our website.

Thank you for joining us for these very special April Partner Talks with our Partner Professionals. For the love of a child, please remember to wear your blue ribbon throughout the month of April for Child Abuse Prevention Month!
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