Assist! Ought to a trainer put sunscreen on a pupil?

Dear WeAreTeachers,
Now that it’s getting a lot sunnier outside, one student’s parents emailed asking me to put sunscreen on their second-grader’s arms, face, and neck before he goes outside for recess. When I kindly explained to her that kids this age are allowed to both bring their own sunscreen and apply it themselves, she sent this email: “I think there might be some confusion. I’m asking you to put on sunscreen so his skin doesn’t get burned and don’t turn your classroom upside down…it won’t take more than 30 seconds. Ms (last year’s teacher) managed this last year with no problems. Let me know if I need to get an admin involved so you can handle a very simple request.” I mean what?! -Absolutely not

Dear AN,

So. You don’t hear that every day.

First, this is your principal’s problem, not yours. You must take the reins in this matter as the parents are pressuring you to put yourself in a vulnerable and unprofessional position. Unless the student has a sun allergy or sensitivity, you should not touch them at all to apply sunscreen. (Also, I think 504 shelters would serve more to give the student time/privacy to apply their own sunscreen, but I could be wrong on that.)

If your school principal is afraid of having to intervene, remind them that federal law prohibits touching students unless it is medically necessary or the student is in danger. Legal warnings are usually effective.

But also 30 seconds to apply sunscreen? Has she actually done this before?

Dear WeAreTeachers,
An operation is planned for the summer, which I want to keep secret from my colleagues and administrators. Yesterday, my co-worker sent an email with four summer calendar invites to welcome a new team member and move our planning forward for next year. Normally I would be totally fine with doing something like this, but I will recover for at least six weeks. What can I say that doesn’t invite further questions and speculation? – HIPAA Take control

Dear HTTW,

You have every right to medical privacy. First, you can definitely just say you won’t be there and leave it at that. However, if you are closely connected to your team, remember that vague language may lead to well-intentioned questions from people you care about. (You certainly don’t have to answer these questions either. It’s just information.)

Here are some other options for things to say. E-mailing or texting may feel easier than talking face-to-face.

“I have something planned this summer that prevents me from being there. I’m uncomfortable talking about it. I just know I will be there in spirit!”

“A member of my family is having surgery this summer and will need 24/7 care for at least six weeks. Let me know how I can contribute remotely!”

“I’m setting a limit this summer of not doing any work for school. I really need to rest and recover this summer. Let me know how I can help when we go back to school!”

Dear WeAreTeachers,
A prospective graduate of the high school where I teach offered to work as a nanny for my two little girls during the summer. I taught her sophomore and coached her in volleyball for two years and I trust her completely. But when I told a colleague about our plan, she warned it could be seen as an “inappropriate agreement” and cause a stir among other volleyball parents. Am I making a terrible decision? – I don’t want to say goodbye


Lucky you! Finding childcare is not easy, especially with someone you already trust and have a special relationship with.

Your colleague is trying to protect you. But as long as you don’t teach or coach that student in the next school year, I think that’s fine. A few recommendations to keep your relationship in order and your children safe:

  • Run this plan through to your principal so that he can see it.
  • Pay for CPR and First Aid certification for your student if they don’t already have it.
  • Make time each week to check in with your student nanny. Make sure they know it’s time for both of you to talk about how things are going. Do they need something from you? Is there anything you should know? Is there anything you can do to make their job easier? Sometimes the brightest kids find it hard to talk about what they need.
  • Make sure your student nanny is aware of any policies you have regarding phone calls, social media use, screen time, transportation, or anything else that might be controversial in the context of caring for your children.

Have a great summer!

Do you have a burning question? Email us at

Dear WeAreTeachers,
We have four sick days a year and two personal days from the state. Every year I’ve been in the district (it’s 10 now), the board has always voted to give us extra days, giving us a total of eight sick days and four personal days. But this year, as a “solution” to the shortage of temporary workers and teachers in our area, the Board of Directors decided to abolish district days altogether, leaving us with only state days. Do you think this is a temporary thing worth holding on to, or should I join everyone else and go now? – Make it go away

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