I was 10 years old in the fifth grade when I first got my period. My best friend was the only one who knew. She would guard the bathroom for me while I changed my pads and threw them in the trash can. While I now recognize it was unlikely that anyone would have known or cared about what was happening, back then I was simply mortified.
I thought I was the only one in school who had her period. And the one or two times I forgot my pads and had to bunch up toilet paper to fashion a makeshift sanitary pad was nightmarish, to say the least. I am grateful that I never had the misfortune of actually bleeding through my clothes, but I remember rushing to the bathroom numerous times to check my pad and underwear for leaks.
What I wouldn’t have given in those years to have had a supportive adult at my school who not only knew what was going on, but could have provided me with a little assistance when I forgot my pads or needed a few extra.
Well, one teacher in Michigan is playing that important role for her middle school students. Kristin Heavner, an eighth-grade teacher in Detroit, Michigan, provides discreet, fully-equipped “menstruation care packs” for her students — and she’s urging other teachers to do the same.
Heavner posted about these little menstruation tool kits on her Facebook page yesterday, and her post is already getting a ton of attention.
“I have been doing this for a little bit now,” Heavner writes in her post. “I use my old ipsy makeup bags and make ‘menstruation care packs’ for my students who start their periods unexpectedly.”
Heavner goes on to explain that middle school girls who are just learning the ropes when it comes to managing their periods, especially need this kind of assistance and care:
“In middle school this happens A LOT,” writes Heavner. “I put a few pads in the bag and a couple tampons and panty liners, and I also add a few prewrapped disposable wipes.”
Not only do the packs come equipped with everything a young girl might need while she’s on her period, the pouches come in pretty, welcoming patterns that are totally discreet. No one else will have to know what the young girl is carrying around with her! “It’s discreet and more fun that being handed a giant pad,” writes Heavner. Well, that’s for sure!
Heavner tells Babble that she advises her students at the beginning of the year about the pouches, and things just kind of go from there. “I tell my students in my Crew class (think: homeroom), and then the rest of students just kind of find out,” Heavner shares. “I’ve had most of these students now since sixth grade, so I know them well.”
It seems that this incredible rapport Heavner establishes with her students is just as important as the pouches themselves. These girls know that they can go to Heavner without embarrassment or judgment, and their needs will be handled with care.
“I make sure to tell them to take as much as they may need for the whole day,” Heavner explains. “I make a point to ask if they need more to take home.”
Heavner explains to Babble that the main reason she provides the pads is to avoid potential embarrassment for the girls, and not necessarily because the girls can’t afford menstrual products.
However, there are schools in this country where students cannot afford menstrual products. “Period poverty” is a real thing in America. As The New York Times reports, 40 million women in America are living in poverty. With a year’s worth of menstrual products totaling up to about $70, some families are unable to afford menstrual products for their daughters. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) doesn’t cover these products either.
Therefore, teachers in low-income schools who offer similar menstruation pouches to their students can provide something potentially life-changing for their students — and that could be huge.
As for Heavner, she reports that even though school has only been in for a week, she has already put her pouches to good use. She mentions that her school’s main office has pads for the students, but as she explains:
“Once you’ve already figured out that there is an issue, the last thing you want to do is head to the office, wait in line, ask for what you need, walk back to the bathroom, etc.”
Heavner’s classroom is conveniently located right across from the bathroom, and so are these awesome pouches.
Most importantly, Heavner urges all upper elementary and higher education teachers to keep a few pouches handy for their students — urging everyone to get over any discomfort they might feel about menstruation or anything related to it, “because seriously, about half the population of the world menstruates,” writes Heavner.
Amen to that. And thanks for teachers like Heavner, who are there for their students — not just as educators, but as nurturers, and role models.
Sometimes it’s easy to think that kindness has taken a back seat in our world, but people like Heavner remind us that compassion is alive and well.