Teaching and Chronic Illness

Discussion in 'General Education' started by blindteacher, May 6, 2009.

  1. blindteacher

    blindteacher Cohort

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    Do you have a chronic illness? If you do, do you let your students know about it if it interferes with your teaching on some days?

    I have alternated years of letting my students know and years of not mentioning anything. I have found it can be really nice to let them know. If they know I am having a particularly symptomatic day for example, I will just let them know minimal information: "Pardon me if my fuse is a bit short today" so that they know today is not the day to push my buttons.

    The years I have mentioned minimal information, my students can usually see in my demeanor that I am having a particularly symptomatic day. I keep it vague, just letting them know that I have a medical condition that may cause me to need to sit down or walk around instead of standing while teaching or may make it very hard for me to deal with unnecessary noise.

    How do you handle your condition and how much do you let your students know if you let them know at all?
     
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  3. sk8enscars311

    sk8enscars311 Companion

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    I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia a couple of years ago. While it doesn't hit me as hard as some people, it has definitely made teaching a little more uncomfortable. I don't divulge anything in great detail but sometimes I'll have older students ask me why I walk funny. I don't mind explaining that I have sore achey joints that slip and slide around. I tell them it's kind of like arthritis. My kids know I get headaches a lot but I don't really say a whole lot unless they're blasting on the recorders and I want them to know that we're about to put them away if they don't stop! I know fibromyalgia manifests itself in many ways (did I use that word right?). I get easily stressed and when I do I break out in hives. My older kids (all black and not used to the many "colors" of white skin) thought I had hickeys that would come and go. Obviously I had to explain that one. I also say a lot of things that don't make sense and will have to rethink and re-explain or I'll ask a question, hear the answer and then forget what I asked. I lose things all the time and sometimes I just stand there for a minute trying to remember what I was going to say. I never go into detail as to why I do this. I just say "woo I'm getting old." (I just read that whole last part and boy, I sound like a horrible teacher. This does not happen everyday.)

    I guess my final answer is that I do not tell them flat out what is "wrong" with me but I do explain obvious things to them in a simplified way.
     
  4. silverspoon65

    silverspoon65 Enthusiast

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    Well you are doing one better than me because I definitely do all that at least once a day! :lol: and I don't think I am a horrible teacher!

    I have a few illnesses but none of them really affect my teaching. But I have mentioned them when kids maybe were talking about it for their nursing class or that they or their mom or friend have it (Talking about my thyroid, sleep apnea, etc.)

    I don't know if this is an "illness" per se, but I am very candid with my students about being overweight. I like them to see that just because I am heavy does not mean that I should be discriminated against or that I should be treated differently. When we talk about discrimination, I remind them about this type of discrimination and I share a few personal stories.
     
  5. blindteacher

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    Skate, I have fibromyalgia too. I also walk funny and often have older students ask me why.
     
  6. sk8enscars311

    sk8enscars311 Companion

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    No way! It sucks, but it's kind of nice to know I'm not the only one. *smiley*
     
  7. sue35

    sue35 Habitué

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    As I have mentioned, I have Cystic Fibrosis. I do not tell the children because it is a terminal illness and if you look it up the stats are not very positive, so I do not want them worrying. It is very obvious that I am sick, however, because I cough about 500 (yes I counted one day) times a day.

    All they know is that I have a chronic cough and they know what to do if I have a coughing attack. I am sure some of the parents have figured it out also. I do miss about a week of school a year to go into the hospital but just tell them I am sick.

    It might be different if I was brought up to be proud of my illness but I wasn't, so I feel like I am asking for sympathy if I talk about it and I don't want to look like I am asking for attention
     
  8. frogger

    frogger Devotee

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    I have Hashimoto's Thyroiditis - autoimmune disease affecting the thyroid so my symptoms are similar to other autoimmune diseases. I haven't told my kids but I talk with another teacher who has another autoimmune disease but we will have the same symptoms on the same days a lot of the times - fatigue, achy joints, headaches, swollen or puffy areas around joints, etc.
     
  9. blindteacher

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    I understand how tough of a situation this can be. I don't like to tell my students if their reaction is to pity me. I'm not proud of my illness. My reason for mentioning that I have a condition (no need for details) is to answer their questions about why it may seem I am acting strange on some days.

    If I suspect it will cause me to be the subject of pity or worse, of jokes, then I don't bother to mention it. Each class is different so I "feel out" the class before deciding whether I will mention it or not.
     
  10. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    I don't give my kids specifics, but I do tell them when I don't feel well. They often ask about my medical bracelet.
     
  11. blindteacher

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    I am laughing so hard right now because I can relate so much to this post! "BT, why did you become a music teacher again?"

    And this too. Sometimes I ask my students to repeat what I just said. They think it's to make sure they understand what I said -- but really it's to let me know what I just said!
     
  12. blindteacher

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    Since I'm sure you know as well as I do just how observant students can be, what do you say if they notice you seem unusually tired or in pain?
     
  13. sue35

    sue35 Habitué

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    I hate pity. I think if my kids were older I would tell them and welcome questions from them (like you did in that thread blindteacher) but since they are young and into gossip I think that I would be talked about instead.
     
  14. BioAngel

    BioAngel Science Teacher - Grades 3-6

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    My students are aware that I have asthma and that I keep my inhaler either in my purse or in my desk draw. If for some reason I can't get to it, they know they have permission to grab it for me.

    For a few weeks earlier this year I had a pretty bad lung and sinus infection. At times, I couldn't speak at all because of coughing and you could see the fear in their faces at times. :( I kept telling them I would be fine and that I'm on meds to get better. They told me they'd call 911 and get the nurse if I really needed help-- which was an "aww" moment for me :)
     
  15. alschoolteacher

    alschoolteacher Companion

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    May 6, 2009

     
  16. Pencil Monkey

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    May 6, 2009

    i'm a diabetic and I tell my kids. I am not insulin dependent thank goodness but I need to monitor my glucose levels. My kids know that sometimes I need to eat or I feel funny and I leave it at that. I just explain that my body processes food differently than other peoples.
     
  17. blindteacher

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    May 6, 2009

    Me too.
     
  18. Exclaimation Po

    Exclaimation Po Habitué

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    I have Rheumatoid Arthritis. I tell my students early in the year. My handwriting is hideous. My RA often gives me fake carpal tunnel symptoms and I have to wear a wrist brace. Sometimes my hands will hurt so much that I don't write on the white board much or my writing will much worse than normal. I do try to make light of the subject. Sometimes a student will ask what something I've written says. I'll pretend to be angry and ask if they're criticizing my handwriting. This usually makes them laugh, though some will play along and tell me that they are! :D

    I explain the general idea of RA and answer any questions they have. Sometimes they'll forget and will ask why I'm wearing a brace. I just say that it's my arthritis and we move on.

    I also have asthma and am upfront with them about this. Several of my students also have asthma, so they know that I understand what they're going through.

    Like Silverspoon I'm also frank with them about me being overweight. I did a unit on diversity and tolerance and shared a story from when I worked in corporate America and two women I worked with treated me completely different after I'd lost some weight. This usually makes them upset!

    One thing I want to get across to my students is that there are always obstacles in life. If you don't defeat them, they'll defeat you. So, I show up every day, arthritis flare up or not.
     
  19. blindteacher

    blindteacher Cohort

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    Excellent post!!
     
  20. EMonkey

    EMonkey Connoisseur

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    I have epilepsy. I have not told the children or the parents mostly because epilepsy is often seen in a way that does not fit well with work. I don't want to deal with unfounded paranoia which many others I know who have epilepsy and I have dealt with. The only time I have told parents is when I have had children in my class with epilepsy and only those children's parents.
     
  21. blindteacher

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    Have you ever had issues with other students or parents finding out?
     
  22. EMonkey

    EMonkey Connoisseur

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    No, but I have really not told parents or students. Epilepsy is invisible until the person is actually having a seizure, I went through nuerosurgery years ago and have really not had a noticable seizure in years. The side effects from surgery are asphasia and blindness in one section of my peripheral vision, neither of which are very noticable either. The biggest problem the blindness causes is if I turn around and am looking down and you are right beside me and I didn't know I might run right into you. Oops is usually enough of an explaination for that.

    I have told other staff members and had to deal with finding out the other staff members decided to share it with other people who then thought they needed to tell the principal. To put it mildly that made me livid! I have never talked to the person about it; but am nice in a meaningless aquaintance way. I found this out when I talked to the principal about the fact I was lowering meds and wanted to forwarn her in case anything went wrong. Luckily she said "I figured if it was anything to worry about you would tell me."

    I have in the past lost jobs for the fact I had epilepsy. It is one of the reasons I started hunting for union jobs.
     
  23. blindteacher

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    It's really too bad you have lost jobs because of your epilepsy. I'm sorry to hear that. I'm shocked that your colleagues felt comfortable sharing such private information with your P.

    Do you mind explaining what asphasia is? Do you by any chance mean aphasia and if so, how does it affect your ability to speak or write?
     
  24. anna9868

    anna9868 Habitué

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    blindteacher, this is amazing that you were able accomplish so much with such a tough medical condition!

    If you don't mind me asking, how is it possible not to tell students about blindness, isn't it kind of obvious?
     
  25. mollydoll

    mollydoll Connoisseur

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    I wanted to tell my students about my back issues so they don't think that I sit too often or am lazy when I don't go to them and make them come to me, but my VP is adamantly against saying anything.

    I do try to move around as much as I can, but some days, I need to sit more than others. Also, if I have to move around more in one block, I have to pay for it the next. Overall though, the sitting, moving around, sitting in small increments of 5-7 minutes at a time actually seems beneficial to my back.
     
  26. bros

    bros Phenom

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    Ah yes, the fun stereotype of "epilepsy = unfit to do anything"

    Hell, I have intractable epilepsy and I only have seizures every 4 months.

    I'm a college student, most recent one was in July, before that, February, and before that, November, and then before that I don't remember exactly, but the last major one was when I had a loss of consciousness June 2007.

    Teaching should be interesting for me with that :p

    Especially with all of my disabilities (i'm basically blind in the left eye, peripheral vision to 80 degrees in the right eye), the dysgraphia will probably impact me the most.
     
  27. blindteacher

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    Oh, of course I tell them about my blindness. :lol:

    I don't always tell them about my other disabilities.
     
  28. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    I've grown up being taught to be proud of my hearing loss. I've grown up being taught to compensate for it in any way necessary and that I can do anything anyone else can do, I just might need different methods and sometimes some things might be a little harder (obstacles). In the end, I overcome.

    Fast forward, my son has problems focusing in school and with organization. Whenever he makes an excuse, I simply tell him that he is talking to the wrong person. There are no excuses, only solutions. We have to work to find out what those are.

    Now I am bipolar. I don't explain that to students. I do sometimes confide (maybe a bit too much) to coworkers. I have focus issues and memory issues as well. I can't remember where I put stuff. I can't remember dates very well and keeping up with a schedule takes a lot of routine, list-making and reminder/prompts from ther people. I get through it. I find a way. Sometimes I enlist the support of others. Sometimes it is something I find that works for me. Currently I'm writing "Today's Focus" on the board and I list my lessons, back up plans and daily projects I want to complete (not related to the lessons). There is another teacher here that has similar issues and she just seems like the absent-minded professor to everyone else and looks forever disorganized. I pick her as my buddy for a lot of things (lunch, cleaning out the fridge, etc.) because both of us understand when the other forgets and we try to help each other. She has a HUGE calendar on her wall and tons of post-it notes around it. That's what works for her.

    As for the students, I just tell them I lose things sometimes and ask for their help finding it. This would probably be to my detriment in older grades since there is an emphasis on keeping up with your stuff and being organized. I try to keep things in the exact same place every time and establish a routine for things. It takes me a while to establish that routine to where I will actually remember it. I also go to the board, in front of students, look at my list and tell them the list helps remind me what we are going to do today. Sometimes you'll even see me, right smack dab in the middle of a lesson, excuse myself and go to the board to add something. I tell them what I am doing. In lower grades this also helps teach students that writing has a purpose.

    One day I totally forgot to do the agenda books, homework folders, etc. One of the students reminded me. I gave her the biggest hug for being so helpful and a few of our behavior reward dollars. Students are really good at remembering stuff I forget.

    My problems don't really affect my teaching as much as they affect my life. Stress adds to it. So I have to depend on my husband to help handle a lot. Bless him.

    There have been a few cranky days, but more cranky days happen due to my monthly than to my bipolar. When this occurs, if I recognize it, I keep reminding myself that it is ME that day and not to react to things as I might normally do because I don't want to overreact. If I do overreact, I apologize.

    If I was hurting, I think I would tell students. I know young students really are good at wanting to "take care" of their teachers when the empathy strikes. I would also make sure they knew that in spite of all of it, I still have to work. I still have to do my part. That's part of life. It is important for students to know that.
     
  29. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

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    Add me to the list of folks with fibromyalgia. I used to have benign fasciculations (tiny muscle spasms) all over my body. They didn't hurt, but I felt like a bag of microwave popcorn! As I've gotten older, my symptoms have actually decreased quite a bit, and I'm not taking any medication any more. During the summer I often have trouble sleeping, but when I'm working I'm usually so tired at the end of the day that I drop right off.
     
  30. beccmo

    beccmo Comrade

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    I developed strange symptoms during my first year at my current school. They worsened to the point I was hospitalized for a week. When I returned to class I felt obligated to tell my students what was going on, since they obviously knew something was up. Turned out to be multiple sclerosis.

    I haven't had a remitting episode since, but am a little off balance at times. I haven't told my current students of my condition, but will if the need arises.
     
  31. monsieurteacher

    monsieurteacher Aficionado

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    I have psoriatic arthritis. The psoriasis is quite obvious, and that usually comes up on the very first day, so I explain that.

    I don't usually mention my arthritis, but my arthritis isn't overly serious... I can usually push through. I rarely will sit down (unless working one-on-one or with a small group), but on some of my bad days I'll find a way to sit down.
     
  32. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

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    I have Crohn's Disease, but so far it hasn't really affected my work. When I feel a flare-up, I just take 3 Imodium pills (which I'm not really supposed to do...) and it goes away. If I didn't take the Imodium, I would be in and out of the bathroom for hours.

    It's either take the Imodium or go home sick, but I would be going home sick almost weekly! Hopefully things will get better soon. I'm on new medication and hope to be in remission within the next year.
     
  33. smithf1

    smithf1 Rookie

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    Chronic Illness

    I have Type 1 diabetes and am on an insulin pump. I always tell my class about my condition. I show them how I test my blood and how I put that number into my pump. I talk to them about counting carbohydrates and watching what I eat.

    When my blood sugar is low I have shown them where I keep my glucose tablets. I teach them that if I need assistance how to call the nurse's office.

    This year when I had the discussion I was able to proudly talk about how I have a connection to Sonia Sotomayor our newest Supreme Court justice.

    I have never had any repercussions from parents or administration.
     
  34. blindteacher

    blindteacher Cohort

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    Like you, I mention the obvious (blindness) and usually leave out the less obvious. I very rarely mention my arthritis because it's not a huge deal--my fibromyalgia is the main condition responsible for my chronic pain.

    On another note, since I'm still on medical leave, I am pretty sure my students will be very curious to know what I'm up to. I'm not even sure if I will be able to return to work anytime soon, so there is a chance they may be with their long-term sub through the semester or worse yet, through the year, and in that case I will have to face them as late as January or the beginning of next year. I haven't decided what I will tell them and what I won't.

    :unsure:
     
  35. blindteacher

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    :eek:hmy: I can't imagine this is good for your body. Have you talked to your doctor about another solution? The stress on your body might accumulate and lead to a more serious flare-up.
     
  36. blindteacher

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    :agreed: I think blindness and deafness are socially considered the worst disabilities but are the most easily overcome.

    I can understand why you don't mention your Bipolar Disorder to students. I don't mention my PTSD to students either. Too much stigma attached to mental illness.

    Do you mind if I ask what type of BP you have? Also, is it well regulated with meds?

    This is the reason I tell my students anything at all. Most of them are sincerely concerned for my well-being. I think it's sweet that there are students that are so concerned about their teachers, although I don't want to worry them! :)
     
  37. blindteacher

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    Wow, I'm really glad to hear your symptoms improved to the point of not even needing medication anymore. That's great! :thumb:
     
  38. blindteacher

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    How wonderful you educate your students on diabetes. Definitely a great teaching moment. :)

    I didn't know Sotomayor had diabetes.
     
  39. sue35

    sue35 Habitué

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    Wow, for me so much has changed about telling the students since I last posted. Because I got so sick at the end of last year, all the students and parents know about CF. It is too hard not to tell them, as I cough non stop throughout the day. Especially with H1N1, I felt it was important to tell them.

    In Science we are learning about genetics and the students think it is so neat that their teacher has a genetic disease:)
     
  40. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

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    I was just diagnosed this past summer (although, I think I had it for a while), so my doctor is trying to find a combination of meds that will work for me.

    In the meantime, I just have to stop the problem as quickly as possible or I would be in trouble!
     
  41. Hoot Owl

    Hoot Owl Aficionado

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    What medication are you taking now? My DIL has Chron's and is taking injections in her abdomen once a month. Will the Imodium cause any damage?

    Blind Teacher, I admire you so much and think it's wise to tell the kids about your illness.

    About 5 years ago I missed 25 days of school. I had gall bladder surgery, a nightmarish kidney stone w/lithotripsy, and lots of stomach problems. I never told my kids because I really didn't know what to tell them. The next year I had a parent ask me if I'd planned on missing a lot of school????? Like I was off and having a good time!
     

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