I recently just finished my first semester of teaching. It’s been a wild ride – my first term especially has blurred into one giant mess of late nights, early mornings, and crying to my KLA leader in the Languages office. I’ve learnt so much, not only about my job, but how my diabetes reacts to being on my feet from 7.30-4.30!
There are three main things that I’ve learnt about my diabetes these past six months, and in true teacher fashion I will list them, because lists are my addiction and the best thing ever.
1. Lower stress levels = lower blood sugar levels
I don’t care what some research papers say (that our levels only go up due to stress eating or burnout), the fact remains that in the first month and around report time, my levels were absolutely nuts, regardless of what I ate! I’m doing my Masters at the same time as working (I know, I’m insane) and having three assignments due at the same time as 150 reports was NOT conducive to perfect diabetes control. Handy hint – if you want to increase your hba1c in a few weeks, writing reports, lesson plans, and 3000 word assignments at the same time is the way to do it.
2. Students surprise you.
The hardest part I’ve found so far about being a teacher with type 1 is having to be “on” the entire time, even when your blood sugar is plummeting and you can see your hands shaking as you write the date on the board. However, my fears of having a hypo while the kids destroyed the classroom and each other were quickly put to rest. It surprised me how understanding they were when I explained why we were doing a quiet writing activity. A quick “Guys, I’m diabetic and my blood sugar is really low, I need you to finish off this exercise quietly while I drink this juice” is usually all it took. The one or two students who acted up would quickly be peer pressured into behaving by the others because “Miss doesn’t feel well! Don’t be stupid!” I’m lucky to have a good relationship with my kids, and I’ve learnt to never assume their reaction to anything. They also can guess when I’m low – I teach French, and when I forget the word for “door” or “listen”, they know something is up! They’re not perfect angels by any means, but they’re respectful and great kids!
3. Diabetes prepares you for the classroom.
How does it prepare you? Teachers and diabetics both spend their days juggling about a million things at once – having five years experience of the constant diabetes internal monologue (“Am I low? Did I over bolus? Will I walk home? Should I set a temp basal now or later? What if it rains?”) prepares you for the teacher internal monologue that happens throughout your entire day. My brain during the school day now looks something like this:
“Leave room on the board for the brainstorm later”
“Ugh what is that smell”
“Is that blood on my top?!”
“Check in on that back row”
“Cold call Bob for the next question he’s getting too comfy over there ”
“Oh my god WHAT is that smell”
“Oh gosh this writing is sloping downwards, am I low?”
“No time no time we need to get through this today”
“Ok you just dropped the worksheets, you’re low”
“Peer learning time aka hypo treatment time!”
I’m still making so many mistakes but I’m learning! If there’s a Melbourne high school teacher out there with type 1, let’s grab coffee.