Chapter 4: For High School Teachers
As a high school teacher, you probably know what crucial time high school can be for students. For students with food allergies, they are just starting to own their condition and learn to manage it without the help of their parents in preparation of college. High school is also a time when risk-taking behavior such as drugs and alcohol can begin, which can be dangerous for students with food allergies. Here are some things you can do to be a food allergy ally.
- On the first day of school, pass around a getting to know you sheet. Ask students about their hobbies, interests and if they have any food allergies. This will allow students to feel like they are in control to self disclose (even if you already know) and it will help you know if it is safe to bring in treats for your students
- Learn to use epinephrine auto-injectors. Anaphylactic reactions (the most severe form of allergic reactions) can happen anywhere and to anyone regardless of history of allergies or not. Becoming familiar with how to use an auto-injector could potentially save a student's life
- Don't joke about student's allergies. Middle schoolers are impressionable and if you do it, the students will think it is ok, even though it is not. Make your food allergic students feel safe.
- Keep your classroom clean. If kids are allowed to eat in the classroom, make sure to keep the desks clean for students with allergies.
- If your class curriculum involves food at all (i.e. a bio lab or a cooking class) talk to the food allergic student about how to make it safe for them to participate instead of excluding them from the activity. I remember being excluded from multiple bio labs because they used food ingredients I was allergic to and that was never a good feeling.
- Talk to the students first. Even though it may be easier to call a parent, high school is a critical time for food allergic students to advocate for themselves. If you go to a parent, it automatically sends the message that you think that they are not capable of being in control of their food allergies.
- Make sure students with food allergies know that you are an open ear to listen if they are having any problems at home or at school regarding their allergies.