Just Let Them Bleed

Today I attended the first training session of the Learning Leaders program which my child's school requires to be a volunteer. At the beginning of the session we all went around and introduced ourselves and everyone said the same things. I want to be helpful to the teachers. Class sizes are so big. I want to be more involved in the school community. I want to HELP.

I am not against the program, rather, I think it is a very good one. But I am against the need for such a program to begin with. What ever happened to "Hello child's teacher. I am free most mornings, do you need any help in the classroom?"

What happened is frivolous lawsuits. What happened is Jerry Sandusky. What happened is a news media that makes it sound like children are being abducted from street corners and schoolyards every five minutes. Fear sells. And school administrators are buying it. `

It is a terrible terrible thing when kids get hurt. The worst thing. And I am sure that all the people in this room, volunteering to help out at their child's school, are exactly the people we should worry about.

There were over 40 intelligent adults at the training session; parents, teachers, professionals. Still, we spent over an hour just reading over the rules and regulations, most of which were what you'd expect.  Follow all school rules. Wear your badge at all times. Never be alone with a child. We are not allowed to volunteer in our own child's classroom. The teacher is always in charge. And so on and so on.

One of the areas where I feel I could be most useful is when the kids are running around the playground, 25-30 kids, one teacher. Having another person there would certainly make the kids safer. Or at least it would, were I allowed to do anything. So I asked what if a kids falls down and is hurt? Should I help them. No. Get the teacher's attention. The room then got into a discussion about what if you were helping supervise a group of kids and a fight broke out. I said, if two kids were hurting each other in front of me I would break it up and try to help them. But no. Since there is always going to be a teacher there (volunteers are never left alone with a group either) we are required to get the teacher's attention and let them handle it.  The principal (who was there for part of this training ) pointed out that if you try to separate the kids you could hurt them by mistake. Or they could hurt you (clearly she doesn't know that I get punched on a regular basis). And then you might sue? Really? I am going to file a lawsuit against the principal of my daughter's school, (who I love, by the way)? Because I accidentally got my nose broken by some kid while trying to break up a fight? People do this?

Sadly, yes.

I gave up my crusade but pointed out that this rule made the volunteer pretty useless. I am sorry but if a kid falls down in front of me I plan on helping them up. And if two kids are pummeling each other in front of me I plan on stopping them. Go ahead, sue me. At least the children will be safe. Whatever happened to letting people use their common sense?

If you want to run a background check to make sure none of us are child molesters, go ahead. Make us sign in at the security desk, show ID, wear a nametag at all times. I am fine with all this. My daughter goes to school here. I don't want strangers just wandering around the school.

But we are volunteers. We are offering to work in this school, for free, because we believe that we have something to offer. We are not robots and we are not children. We are adults. We are mothers and fathers and teachers and professionals, each with our own abilities and experiences. Allow us to use our creativity, our passion, and our expertise to help your school. Don't just use our bodies, use our minds.

I am still doing the training sessions. After they are over, I will tell them what I know how to do. I can help kids with writing. And reading. And sports. I have done all of these things in my professional life, and I am sure I am not the only one. I will also wash paintbrushes for the pre-k teacher if that is what she needs to help her class achieve. And no, I will not touch the children. Or be alone with any of them. Or comfort them when they are sad, or teach them to read by dancing or do anything else that a volunteer might be qualified to do, but the administration is too afraid we will do something wrong to allow us to try.

I promise to follow all the rules. But I have a message to all you other volunteers, and please hear me. If you are in my daughter's class and she falls down and is bleeding, please help her. Please do not leave her crying on the floor while you wait for the teacher to run over from the other side of the playground.

We need to stop suffocating children with our irrational fears. We need to stop constantly looking for who we can blame when accidents happen. We need to rethink the world we are passing on to our kids, a world where people are so afraid of getting sued that they will no longer be decent human beings.

Call me naive, but I trust you. If you see someone hurting my child, or any child, go ahead and stop them.  Be careful of course, but go ahead. I am not going to sue you. Even if you accidentally scratch her arm while pulling her away, I am not going to sue you.

I may even say thank you.