After our discussion with Girls about their experience with periods in school, a major issue that was continuously brought up was having to ‘convey it to the teacher’. This constituted a significant part of the school experience for most of the girls. So we decided to ask teachers to give their perspective about dealing with student’s while they were menstruating and the way they were approached by the girls. In addition, we also asked if there were any period related incidents in the class and the kind of reaction that was met by both boys and girls.
We received a wide variety of answers from the teachers and some very interesting incidences were shared.
Most of the answers suggested that the approach by students varied from person to person. A few were comfortable in speaking that they were on their period but a majority were shy and mostly came up with reasons like “stomach ache”, “a private problem” or “feeling sick” while seeking permission to go to the bathroom. There were also instances when the girls were hesitant in being vocal about periods at first but eventually said so on being asked by the teacher.
Girl’s while discussing their experiences with periods also pointed out the difficulty in approaching male teachers. Analysing the two answers that we received from male teachers, we found that girls never specified a reason for going to the washroom or the medical room. They simply said they needed to go or that it was something urgent. There was no indication in the answers that the teachers asked for a reason to go to the washroom. This also suggests that both the male teachers were perhaps uncomfortable with the topic or felt no need to cross question on hearing statements like ‘its urgent’ or ‘private problem’.
Here are some of the incidents that the teachers shared with us:
- “A lot of times my students asked if I had extra sanitary napkins to share with them” – Meena Nagpal (Art teacher)
- “A girl got a spot on her white skirt. She only asked me for a safety pin. Later on, I got to know that she had stained her skirt which she later wore in a front back manner. She put some chalk powder on her skirt. I think it was pretty brave of her.” –Ms. Rashi ( English Language and Literature Teacher)
- ” A student once fainted in the middle of a presentation as she was on her period and hadn’t properly eaten, leading to weakness which I handled. It’s very normal, there have been occasional stains on clothes, etc. We treat it as part of the normal cycle and I find most other students- boys and girls- are quite understanding and supportive during such moments” –Ms. Ima Kazmi( English teacher)
- ” I have experienced pre-teen boys teasing girls who got stains. Had to pull out the girl and the boy separately and together. Making the boy understand the realness of the situation and the girl that there was no need for guilt or shame, it was difficult” –Ms. Deepa Sebastian (English teacher)
- “Not in the class but once a girl on her periods fainted while she went to the washroom. The helper didis took care of her. Another time a girl simply asked whether she could go to the washroom with her friend as needs some help” – Imamul Hassan (Science teacher)
A common element that can be seen in all the responses is staining of skirts, to which most of the students of the class respond normally except teen boys who laugh it out while the girl is consumed with guilt and shame. This emphasises upon the need for proper Sex education comprising of a conversation on periods, for both students and teachers needs to be conducted, not just to make all aware of the technicalities of the process of menstruation but also the need to normalise this natural process. As one of the teachers mentioned ” making them understand the realness of the situation”, holds not just for boys but also for girls who see it as something to be ashamed and shy of. The basic foundation for a child is created in the school, where she or he learns to form not just their opinions but also their behaviour towards all other genders, the society as well as its functioning. It is imperative that girls and boys at a very young age are exposed to the dynamics of menstruation and the need for normalisation of the same in our society. Most of the teachers do understand that Menstruation is a natural process and are there to help in times of inconvenience. As students we first need to come out of our own reservations pertaining to talking about periods openly and approach the teachers openly. How comfortable or uncomfortable the teacher is has to be dealt not by the students but the teachers themselves.