A Note from the Teacher Answers Your Classroom Questions
A Note From The Teacher
by Jennifer Cummings, M.Ed.
Why Can’t I?
A Note from the Teacher Answers Your Classroom Questions
Every year we get questions about the ins and outs of classroom life. While working with kids in a classroom is similar in many ways to having kids in your home, there are some limitations that you might not think about when running a classroom. Sometimes this can lead to rules that seem odd to downright silly to parents, so here at A Note from the Teacher, we’re going to talk about readers’ top 5 questions around “Why Can’t I…” in the classroom!
5. Why can’t I …volunteer in my child’s classroom?
What looks silly: Don’t schools need extra help in the classrooms? We all know many schools are understaffed, so why can’t I help out the class my child’s in? I want my child to have the best school year they can! Why won’t they let me help?
The background to the rule: Each classroom is made up of the daily routines and interactions between all of the students and adults that are part of that environment. When a mom or dad (or grandparent) comes into that environment, some children are unable to focus and learn in the same way. They can be distracted because of trying to impress mom or dad, they may be hesitant to participate fully in discussions, or they may want to sit with mom and dad, not in class. Regardless, many school shave chosen to keep the distractions to a minimum by asking parents not to volunteer in their own child’s class.
Instead, try: If you still want to help in the school, see if you can volunteer in other classrooms, specialty classes such as art or gym, or maybe you can lend a hand at lunch or recess. If your child’s school won’t allow any volunteers, make and appointment with the building principal to find out the reason for the rule so that everyone understands the situation better.
4. Why can’t I … send peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to school with my child?
What looks silly: Generations of kids grew up eating PB&J sandwiches all through school, and it’s the iconic American lunch. My child’s not allergic to nuts, so why can’t he bring peanut butter and jelly to school? He won’t give it to anyone else.
The background to the rule: Many more children are being diagnosed with specific, and potentially life-threatening, allergies. More and more children are severely allergic, with peanuts being a major source of severe allergies in children. What you may not realize is that some children are so allergic that even the scent of peanuts or leftover oil from the nuts on a table can give them an awful reaction. For this reason, many schools have become labeled “peanut free zones”.
Instead, try: There are alternatives to peanut butter that many schools allow, including some spreads made from sunflower seeds. Not a fan of the alternative spreads? Check out the Internet for school lunch ideas. There are sure to be tons of new ideas for you to try that don’t include peanuts. Remember, this rule’s made for the health and safety of every child, so don’t try to sneak by this one!
3. Why can’t I … call my child during the school day?
What looks silly: We all know things change quickly in life, and sometimes plans change unexpectedly. I just need to get a message to my daughter about her dance lessons. If I need to talk to my child, why can’t I call the school and talk to them? It just takes a minute.
The background to the rule: Every family has had a time when the home phone has kept ringing and ringing while you try to have a family dinner together. Well, imagine that phone being used by all of the families your child goes to school with- yikes! While emergency messages can and should be given to the school and passed along to children, it’s important to know that changes in lessons, play dates, and other family activities aren’t emergencies in school. Passing along messages takes time away from learning, keeps the secretaries from completing their work, and ties up phone lines that may be needed.
Instead, try: Most schools allow children to have cell phones in their backpacks, but not out during the schools day. Know your school’s cell phone policy; perhaps you can give a call after the school day is done. Better yet, take a few minutes and talk about the day’s schedule the night before or in the morning before heading off to school. Remember, in the case of a true emergency involving illness, accident, or other critical situation, certainly call the school to explain what you need to share with your child.
2. Why can’t I … send birthday cupcakes in with my child?
What looks silly: Everyone loves cupcakes, and birthdays are always times to celebrate. Why can’t I send in cupcakes this year? They’re only small, and I did it last year.
The background to the rule: There can be lots of reasons that your child’s school has ‘outlawed’ foods like cupcakes and such from classrooms, but generally here are the top 3 reasons for the rule: First, many schools are concerned about students with wheat, dairy, egg, peanut, or other allergies. By allowing outside foods in, there is no way to know what is specifically in those foods that may cause a reaction. Second, some school districts have passed strict nutrition guidelines that do not allow high-sugar foods to be served in the school, including in classrooms. Finally, some schools have rules against parties of any type, including birthday parties. Whether for religious reasons or for concerns regarding keeping students on task, there are some schools that can reprimand teachers for allowing parties in the classroom.
Instead, try: Send a note in to your child’s teacher, asking if there is any type of snack you can send in for the class. If not, you can ask to come in and be a guest reader or recess monitor for the day of your child’s birthday. While there may be no cupcakes, you can still make the day special.
1. Why can’t I… pick up my neighbor’s student while I’m at school?
What looks silly: The school can look on the computer and see that your child and her friend are next-door neighbors. They also know you’ve picked up Susie before, so why can’t you take her home today? Her mom won’t care, and why make her come here, too?
The background to the rule: Schools have gotten increasingly strict with requirements about who can pick up children from school during the day. While sometimes it seems like the school is just being difficult, remember that there are often hundreds of children in one building, and some have custody situations you may not have ever thought of. By allowing another child to go with someone without their parents’ express permission, the school may be liable in case of an accident or other issue.
Instead, try: Make a regular schedule with your neighbor, where you each take pick up duties on particular days, then notify the school in writing regarding who has permission to pick up your child. That way you can still save time and gas, and you have less of a hassle at the school. A win-win for everyone!
Schools are complex social places that are central to every family’s life. Each and every child at a school has their own particular needs, concerns, and issues that the school needs to work with in the best way that they can. Sometimes, trying to make sure every child has the same experience can be tough for schools, and at times, may lead to some pretty odd rules. Is there an odd rule at your child’s school that you just don’t understand? Make and appointment at the school and ask for some background on how that rule came to be. You’ll likely learn a lot, and may be able to give them ideas, too.
More questions for A Note from the Teacher? Let us know your education concerns, and we may be able to address it in an upcoming column!
Thanks to everyone who reads our column regularly. We look forward to sharing new ideas and advice with you each month. Remember- have a question?
"I believe that families' involvement in their child's education is one of the key ingredients to creating a successful school experience for children. Keeping parents informed about school-related issues helps parents and teachers work together for the best possible outcomes for their children. Learning together makes learning fun - for everyone!" - Jennifer Cummings.
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