Monday, August 16, 2010

Teachers Who Care

by Kelley Lindberg

Did you hear it? The ominous music building up? You know the kind – the discordant, scary instrumental music when the movie hero finds himself thrust into peril?

Sixth grade started today for my son. He’s pretty sure that doomsday music was playing for him.

A lot of kids like school, I tell him. Some even look forward to going back at the end of summer. He shakes his head in dismay. He can’t comprehend anything of the sort. School represents everything he hates – routine, confinement, quiet, uniforms, reasonable bedtimes… What’s to like? He’s a summer boy through and through. Give him lazy days, swimming pools, buddies to hang with, popsicles to indulge in, and a seemingly endless rotation of skateboard t-shirts, and he’s a happy kid. Take them all away and… well, you get the picture.

We met his new teachers last week – he has two, each for a half-day. They had asked to meet with us before school started so that we could talk to them about his (and his friend’s) food allergies, and how to keep the two boys safe in class. The teachers were wonderful. They were very supportive, concerned, and interested, and asked a lot of questions. They seem ready to make any sort of adjustments to their curriculum necessary to prevent the boys from feeling excluded or unsafe this year.

Let me tell you, nothing is more reassuring to a parent than knowing your child’s teachers really and truly care about your kid. The other boy’s mom and I both breathed huge sighs of relief when we walked out of that meeting last week, feeling confident that we could work with these teachers this year and make it a great year.

The week before, I had gone to a different elementary school to help another friend of mine talk to her child’s teachers. That meeting went really well, too. Again, the teachers seemed so willing to learn and accommodate that child’s needs.

From time to time, I hear other parents talk about teachers and principals who are resistant, unpleasant, or even downright hostile when it comes to accommodating a student’s food allergies. That simply astounds me. Often, it doesn’t take much to make an allergic child safe – a table set aside in the lunchroom, a “Peanut-Free Classroom” sign on the door, or some easy substitutions in a class food project. How can an adult whose entire career is based on nurturing and educating children take such a negative stand on protecting a child from a life-threatening food allergy reaction? How can an experienced educator think Tootsie Rolls are more important than a child’s life? I just don’t get it.

Every year, I thank my lucky stars that my son goes to a school where food allergy awareness starts with the principal and permeates the entire school culture. They’ve been so willing to work with us, learn from us, and make adjustments when necessary, and they’re even more than willing to learn from the occasional mistake or oversight.

So while my son may feel like he’s been sent to prison for the crime of enjoying summer too much, I’m happy to know that his “wardens” are keeping his health and safety high on their priority list, and that they’re looking out for him during those hours of the day when I can’t.

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