January 26, 2022

Eternal Child

Accomplished Education Technicians

Kathy Schwartz column: ‘Handle with care’ conveys useful information to teachers | Columns

3 min read

I am always curious about the things that magically seem to pop up on my Facebook feed. I usually scan the articles quickly and move on, but one caught my eye this week and immediately I said out loud, “What a great idea! Kudos to this teacher.”

Here is what the article said: A mother had received a note from her child’s teacher at the beginning of the year. It stated, ”If your family is experiencing difficulties at home, I would like to provide additional support at school. I understand that you are not always able to share details and that’s okay. If your child is coming to school after a difficult night, morning, or weekend, please text me ‘Handle With Care.’ Nothing else will be said or asked. This will let me know that your child may need extra time, patience, or help during the day.”

It was posted on smartschoolhouse.com. It didn’t name the author, but I can picture this teacher. She has a room full of precious hearts, and her first concern is their wellbeing. Her day is filled with putting out the fires that erupt that have absolutely nothing to do with the educational material she is paid to dispense. She recognizes the varied households her charges come from and also knows that economic status does not dictate emotional stability.

Children, even from the same household, navigate situations differently. And not all parents are comfortable with sharing with the world all the details of their private lives. This is totally understandable. But it would be such a help to teachers to know that today your child may need some TLC or a little slack when emotions are frayed.

After 20-plus years in a classroom, I could usually tell after the first few hours when a student was emotionally stressed and I would adjust my approach to situations. I would have been so grateful if I would have been given a heads up before that student entered my room. Even without knowing the particulars, I could have greeted him as if handling a fragile package.

When mailing a package, do we not label that package “Handle With Care” if the contents are fragile and need special handling? How great would it be if a child would receive that label.

Most teachers are readily available and, with the popularity of texting, this simple thing can be easily accomplished. Even those simple three words left on a voicemail box with a child’s name would accomplish the goal.

Parents trust their children to teachers for eights hours a day. Parents, trust them to use this information to assist your child through a difficult time. Teachers, honor that trust by using the information to guide your reactions.

What constitutes a “difficulty” is simple. If you notice your child is not handling a situation well, it qualifies. A change in routine or job or even a new home can shake the foundation. You, as a parent, know when something is not right.

Together, both parent and teacher can make the trauma less, but only if both know something is going on. Please, teachers, send this note home and, parents, use it. Any child is worth Handling with Care.

Kathy Schwartz is a retired elementary school teacher and serves as a parent education consultant.