The thing about teaching is that you’re so active for the entire day, you sort of forget to stop and take care of yourself. Last Wednesday I had a “six-on” (face-to-face classroom time for the entire day, with no planning/admin periods), and I careened into the Year 10 English classroom after lunch with all the grace of a baby hippo. We were working on essay writing, and as soon as the students finished their introductory activity and I started to speak, I knew something wasn’t quite right. I started my sentence.
“Ok guys, I just need you to…”
I froze. What is that word I need? That thing you do when you need to write in your book? You grab the cover…
“Open our books?” a student volunteered.
“Yep, thanks man, we’re going to look at structuring introductions. Now just bring up Google Classroom and you’ll see a…”
My mind stopped, and my tongue went numb. I had uploaded the file that morning. What is that thing called when you put words on something and present it?
“PowerPoint Miss? The essay writing one?” piped up another kind student. The boys down the back were snickering – “Big night last night Miss?”
I looked down at my hands and saw them shaking. My breathing quickened, and I could already feel that hypo sweat trickling down my back. What do you do when your blood sugar is dropping fast, and you’re responsible for twenty five teenagers?
The feeling you get when you’re hypoing as a teacher is probably comparable to being thrust on stage wearing only your underpants, with an unforgiving audience and no idea of what you’re meant to do next. You’re so vulnerable, and trying to keep the class under control while you’re slurring words or shaking is nearly indomitable. I had a sickening realisation that there were no hypo treatments in my pencil case – I had subtly treated a low BGL the week before during Year 7 French, and forgotten to replenish my supplies. Disorganisation 101. The only thing standing between me and the floor was the mercy of my students.
“Ok…someone needs to go on an adventure down to Staffroom 3, grab the pink bag on my desk, and come back here as quickly as possible. My blood sugar is really low.”
The class was silent – which is a feat unto itself. I never speak softly (I can be heard down the hallway…) and my hands were visibly shaking. If hypos are good for one thing, they’re great at silencing 16 year old boys. One of the few girls in my class jumped out of her seat and ran out of the classroom, and I looked up to see mostly confused faces.
“Pause for a second guys – bring out your homework from last week, and correct it with the person next to you while I get myself together.”
Saying that sentence was like wading through mud. Everything slows down for me when I’m low – my brain seems to stop working. Student-of-the-day rushed back with my bag, and I threw jellybeans down my throat and sat at my desk, willing my body to work.
Ten minutes later, and I was ready to go, with an intact classroom and mostly unfazed students! This may seem unremarkable to people who don’t work with teenagers, but for twenty five students to sit there in relative quiet for ten minutes, do their work, and not take advantage of the vegetable that I had turned into, is a testament to my students. They were so blasé (in the best possible way), and rolled with the punches. There was no fighting, arguing, or throwing objects across their room. They accepted the situation, which is what many of us with type 1 diabetes want when we’re low. No drama, no judgement, just everyone getting on with their day while making an allowance or two!
Being a teacher with type 1 diabetes can be stressful, but it’s also incredibly rewarding.