The Letter to school

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

November 24, 2009

First name of Teacher here,

I wanted to take a moment and ask for some clarification regarding the policy around water bottles and bathroom use in your classroom.

Yesterday, Emily arrived home complaining of a sore throat. My first thought is that she was dehydrated and needed to drink some water. I asked her if she had been using her water bottle during the day, as she knows that I like her to drink water through the day – especially during the fall and winter.

Emily shared that she was not allowed to bring her water bottle to class, nor drink anything in class. She reported that she had to keep the water bottle in her locker and could get a drink between classes/recess. Furthermore, she told me that the children were no longer able to use the bathroom during class time, except for “emergencies” when they needed to seek a teacher’s permission to do so.

It is my hope that Emily has mis-understood or mis-stated these “rules”. As I am sure you can appreciate, I would prefer Emily to have access to water whenever she is thirsty. Furthermore, I prefer her to use her water bottle rather than use a common water fountain due to potential transmission of a wide variety of viruses and bacteria.

As to the bathroom access, I appreciate that it can be tempting for children to wander the halls during classtime. However, it alarms me that any child would feel hesitant to use the bathroom as needed during the day. As each child has a different body rhythm and needs, it is surely hard to predict what each child’s possible toileting needs would be during any given day.

I was fortunate to see Howard Gardner speak about fifteen years ago. During his lecture, he shared that he looked at the policies each school had around controlling children’s bodily functions , ie. Eating, bathroom functions, drinking. He noted that in his experiences, only two types of places attempted to regulate the how and when of human bodily needs. One was schools. The other was prisons. That statement deeply impacted me as an educator.

I reviewed the school handbook and saw no mention of these policies or rules. Again, I am hoping that this was simply a misunderstanding on the part of Emily and appreciate your clarification on this matter.


10 Baleful Regards:

Gina said...

This is a great letter. I especially like the schools/prisons reference. I have had several issues with school "rules" over the years and I wish that I could stay as level-headed as you when writing letters! I am anxious to hear the response.

Madeleine said...

That is an excellent letter.

The best teachers my daughter has had have, perhaps not coincidentally, allowed the kids to eat snacks while they were working instead of waiting for recess. When a kid's blood sugar level drops, no learning is going to happen anyway. And I really appreciate the way that policy reflects trust in the kids to regulate their own needs and do so without disrupting class work.

My daughter finds a side benefit: more time to play at recess, since she isn't cramming down her snack for 5 of the 15 minutes.

Dawn said...

Thanks Ladies - It walks my line between wanting to throttle her and leaving the bridge open for her explanation. Lets hope she doesn't ignore me again.

And Madeleine - Open snack was something I was "turned" onto years and years ago when an early childhood Guru asked "Why do we allow babies to eat on demand - but when they turn one, or two or three or four or five, Adults feel we have the right to tell another person WHEN their body is hungry?"

I think that was in 1997? The Child Care went to open snack after that - Snack was still "served" at traditional times, but extra was always in "snack baskets" if a child needed a snack at an "off" time.

They were much happier - weren't gobbling down fistfuls of food and Yep, their blood sugars stayed even.

Not long after we moved this idea into napping/resting, with great success I think.

I also agree that recess isn't the time to "get done the other things that aren't class work" but to be used for RECESS - a recharge and social time.

Terrance has agreed that if she ignores me this time, he will kick the door down to make way for me at the Parent Teacher Conference!

She ignores us at her peril - because seriously - the Professional Dawn and Professional Terrance combo? Scary.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I can't WAIT to hear what happens next.


Jaelithe said...

You would not BELIEVE the fight I had with my son's, ahem, former teacher about water bottles. I mean, this is a five-year-old kid who has serious trouble operating a 30-year-old rusty water fountain handle because of his fine motor delay. And, again, they are practically showering the kids in hand sanitizer when they walk in the door, and constantly cautioning them to eat healthy food and drink lots of water instead of soda etc.-- why do they then instruct them to share a drinking fountain with 22 other five and six-year-olds during ONE, count it, ONE five minute daily water break at the end of recess?

This prison mentality is part of the reason we just gave up on public school after three months of fighting. Seriously. Five-year-olds should not be expected to go a full 8 hours with only 20 minutes total to eat and one or two very brief chances at a sip of water. And when one particular five-year-old kid is already medically underweight, and has a medical condition that makes it difficult for him to eat quickly, that sort of treatment is practically criminal.

Dawn said...

Oh J - I would believe it. I really would.

I asked Em if she gave her teacher the letter....


Did the teacher send me a note back or speak to Em about what my note said?


My pause....Emily says, "I think she is intimidated by you, Mom"

Me: "You're bringing your water bottle tomorrow"

Game ON

jwg said...

this beats anythin on tv. go get her. pardon the lack of caps-theirs a cat on my arm.

C said...

As a fellow teacher (albeit at the high school level) I applaud you for sticking up for Emily's right to drink water as needed during the school day.

I make a big point of telling my students at the beginning of the year that they are welcome to bring a drink to class as long as they don't spill it. Guess what? Four years after implementing the policy I have never once had a spill in my classroom that the kids didn't readily clean up of their own accord, and no student has ever tried to abuse the policy in any way. It could get me into trouble with my administration if they ever find out that I don't follow the "no food/drinks in classrooms" rule, but I don't care. Dehydrated or thirsty kids aren't going to pay attention to me or their classwork and are more inclined to act out. Water bottles don't distract anyone.

Can't wait to hear what happens tomorrow.

Lisse said...

There are some workplaces that attempt to regulate bathroom breaks for their employees. That doesn't make it any more acceptable, and does, indeed reinforce a prison mentality unintentionally designed to squeeze the least amount of effort from those subjected to it.

What is the administration's take on all of this?

Amanda said...

At least your letter didn't prompt a telephone call from the teacher in which she spent 20 straight minutes screaming at you. Granted my letter may have been harsher, using phrases like, "invalid assessment, poorly worded questions to illicit the desired response, and the note home was condescending at best, and insulting at worst." A month later, and still nada from the administration after speaking with the principal three times, and informing him of the telephone call and her tantrum. Yeah, on to the Superintendent I will be soon.

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