I had the absolute privilege of teaching in two classes this morning on food allergies. This all came about because there is a little girl in my daughters first grade class that puts her cheesy chip fingers in the faces of the food allergic kids to tease them at lunch. I figured this was my opportunity to teach and train on this important topic instead of get angry. This little girl is 6 or 7 and I can’t expect that she knows or understands the risk that she is putting her food allergic classmates in. I kindly emailed the teacher to let her know my concern and told her that I would be more than happy to come teach in her class. She had the best response any of us food allergy moms could hope for. The next day she talked to the whole class and then requested that I come in the following week to teach her students as well. When my oldest daughter, in 4th grade heard this, she begged that I come into her class as well. I know her teacher pretty well so I also asked her if I could come in. She too said she would be happy to have me come in.
I planned and prepared with my two food allergy kids what would be important for me to teach about. While there are a myriad of things I could teach on, we picked the few that seemed the most important. We decided to talk about how to treat our food allergic friends with kindness and understanding, the dangers and severity of some people’s allergic reactions, and how we all can keep our food allergy kids safe. I took the book “Show and Tell Scout” written by Disney and Mylan which talks about a boy named Scout with a severe milk and peanut allergy, what it is like to go to school for him, and what it means to have a severe food allergy. This book is long, but covers so many of the topics we need our non-food allergy friends to know. Then I did a little hands on activity, which I love to do when I teach, to show what cross contamination means and how it can affect our food allergy friends.
The kids in both classes had amazing responses to what I was able to teach them. In both classes, they all learned new things they didn’t know before, they asked great questions to help understand their food allergic friends better, and seemed to really appreciate what they learned. It was such a joy for me to be back in the classroom teaching about a subject that I believe it so important and doesn’t get taught about.
The reaction that I wasn’t prepared for was the reaction of the teachers. In the 4th grade class I was in, a teacher from next door came in to use the printer. He leaned over to me and said that two of his boys have a severe peanut allergy and requested that I speak to his class as well. On my way out of the school, I ran into this teacher again and he encouraged me to go cause a raucous in the office about food allergies because it’s about time someone did. 😉 My daughters 4th grade teacher said she learned things she didn’t know and said I need to talk to the PTA and staff. She said she would talk to the Principal about having me come to train the staff and talk seriously about why the school serves peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the cafeteria. I’m not sure if anything will come of this, but the one thing I do know is that these teachers went away knowing more deeply the dangers our kids with food allergies face when they go to school. More than that though, is they care so much about our kids that they want everyone to hear what they heard today. That is victory in my book!!