Friday, April 20, 2012

Keep Calm and Educate


I have spent this week thinking about how to write this blog entry. I live in a small town and often that means everyone knows your business – and, in this case, it may mean that everyone will know who I’m talking about. So I must make this VERY CLEAR: the intention of this writing is education, NOT ‘revenge blogging’. Having said that, I feel very strongly about sharing the incident because it will truly help people understand what T1D and/or celiac kids sometimes deal with at the hands (intentional or not) of adults and learn how to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

This past week one of my daughter’s middle school teachers allowed a student to bring in a small – personal sized cake for her friend. The student is her daughter and the other student was her daughter’s close friend. This is not something that has been done for any of the other 40+ students in the class. While, this part of the story goes against my personal beliefs as a teacher myself, it is not something I would have intervened in.

** this teacher has known my daughter all her life and knows her medical situation. **

In order to allow the ‘birthday girl’ the opportunity to eat her cake in a class full of kids, who didn’t have cake, the teacher purchased ice cream sandwiches and had her daughter’s other friends pass them out to the rest of the class. MY DAUGHTER cannot eat ice cream sandwiches because they contain gluten. Again, keep in mind the teacher knows my daughter’s situation. As the students got to Nikki’s desk, Nikki said “no thank you” but the lovely young lady tossed it on her desk anyway. Unable to keep from hoping, Nikki got up and went to the empty ice cream box praying that maybe, just maybe, these ice cream sandwiches were gluten free. Nope. So she gave them to her friends. (Had the sandwiches been gluten free, she would have had to leave the room to check her blood – missing out on enjoying a snack with friends either way).

I must stop here to say what wonderful teenage friends my daughter has. The girls refused to eat directly in front of Nikki, so they took turns going to the other side of the room to eat their ice cream. At no time was Nikki given the choice to go get one of her snacks, the teacher didn’t acknowledge her in any way. My child was forced to sit and watch 40+ classmates eat what was one of her favorite foods, before celiac.

To say that I was LIVID would be putting it mildly. The desire to extinguish someone’s life signs was an overwhelming urge – of course, I mean figuratively. I made a phone call to the Principal on the spot – something I SHOULD NOT HAVE DONE in that frame of mind. Thankfully, he wasn’t in so I only left a crazy, ranty message. After getting some much needed feedback from our webpage -- and after a very dear friend (I love you Jim) challenged me in some areas -- I was able to calm down, collect my thoughts, separate my personal hurt – remember the teacher in question was someone I had considered a family friend – from the facts and then write an intelligent letter to the Principal.

The Principal responded to my e-mail that evening saying he would contact me in the morning. True to his word, he called me and we were able to talk through the situation. He was very understanding and upset on Nikki’s behalf. I e-mailed some educational information along with my letter the night before; he'd read the material and was attempting to digest all of it. My hope is that this type of thing never happens again, to Nikki or any other student and I feel very confident that the Principal has the same thought. I won’t go into further detail regarding our conversation, but I believe we managed to turn a very inappropriate, unnecessary situation into a learning opportunity. The teacher at the heart of this matter did finally apologize to Nikki, after about 4 days. I know she is angry that she was called on this, but as a leader in our community – representing far more than just the teaching staff – I hope she takes some time to reflect on the power adults have to damage kids or lift them up. Nikki was not lifted up this week and then spent the remainder of the week worrying that she had hurt this teacher’s feelings. My girl – I wouldn’t change her for the world.

Children with chronic illnesses have to face life and death on a daily basis. They face things that many adults couldn’t handle. To have a kid penalized in a situation like this is unforgiveable. To take your anger out on that child because you were called on CHOICES YOU MADE is something I have no words for. To watch my child respond with her typical smile and concern for the one hurting her is priceless and something that is a GOD given aspect of her soul – it’s where her strength comes from.

I challenge every teacher to stop and think: how would I feel if this way MY CHILD?

We will continue to analyze, and monitor, the situation and use it as a learning and educational tool. BUT we need to move on from this very personal event; so we have made peace with it and have forgiven everyone involved.

Like I’ve said many times lately: If GOD brings you to it, he WILL bring you through it.

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