Teacher absences and Health

1 Nov

GAA is still the dominant influence in my teaching life, but I’m going to take a shar p turn, here.


Every Friday and every Monday, the principal of Magnolia High, Mr. “Fightin’” Joe Clark sends out an email to everyone announcing how many of the staff are out.  Last Friday, about 20% of the staff were absent.  Monday, about 12% of the staff were absent while only 8% of the students were absent.  Our Superintendent mentioned this in a beginning-of-the-year speech he gavem where he said that teachers were missing more days than the students.  It would be interesting to know how wide spread the problem is, and what the cause is.


In my classroom, I rarely go a week without at least one person out for some reason.  As for me, last year I didn’t miss a day and haven’t so far this year.  But if it does happen where I have to, it’s not a big deal.  I just find it more of a bother to be out because it takes time to put things back together after just one day out and the kids like to punish me for not being there upon my return. 


But there is a problem that is lurking in the wings, and it seems to be growing nationwide.  Last Sunday, I happened to catch part of a PBS special on it, and this months Reader’s digest had at least 2 articles on it.  The radio waves are filled with advertisements warning about it an epidemic that is mostly preventable.  And it’s not autism. 


I’m talking about diabetes, specifically Type II Diabetes.  Apparently this is what happened to the little girl I was doing Hospital Homebound for last year, and they didn’t know she had it.  But it is a growing problem in the U.S. and threatens to overtake our healthcare system.  It is also becoming a global problem.  Apparently having all the food we want is killing us.


According to the PBS special, those of Hispanic or African descent have a 1 in 2 chance of getting diabetes at some point.  That is an incredible rate!   And the consequences of carelessly ignoring the issue can be quite dire.  The good news is that it is controllable and perhaps even preventable.  I’m sure there are readers who are more familiar with this that I am, and could expand on the topic much more.


Aside from the ads and publicity, this has been something that has been casting a shadow over my own classroom.  Queen happens to have almost every risk factor there is for this disorder, including a temperament that is in deep denial of the problem.  She already takes blood pressure medication that she does not take regularly as prescribed.  She insists on eating the fattiest, most sugary substances within reach and is relatively inert when it comes to exercise.  Her lack of physical mobility is becoming more of an issue as our students require more physical involvement.


Coach is also being monitored for his blood sugar, his heart and his blood pressure.  He is only about 25, but is overweight at about 290 lbs and about 5’11”.  The good news is that he has dropped almost 50 pounds over the last 18 months, and is getting serious about his diet and exercise.  He seems to have some motivation in his favor, as well as being of European descent which for some reason helps.


Patience is in her early 30’s, is not significantly overweight and eats relatively well.  She’s probably the most fit of the 4 of us..  However, she is of mixed Hispanic and African descent and she says it is easier counting members of her family who *don’t* have diabetes than ones who do.  Both her parents and 5 of the 7 siblings of her parents have it.  She suffers from low blood pressure, so her risk is still pretty moderate.


And then there is me.  I quit smoking months ago and have weighed 220 lbs for the last 10 years at 6’1”.  So I am a bit over weight but at least stable.  My blood pressure and general health have been pretty good and my family’s health has been good with no known risk factors.  I know I’m not getting enough exercise which is a challenge with a bad knee. 


As far as being physical, while we do lots of lifting and positioning and moving, it is not quite as physical of a job as my own ancestors who were all farmers.  We have our own kitchen in our room, so we have access to food all the time.


And parents…egad!  ALL of the parents of my kids are severely obese.  Every. Single. One.  I hadn’t thought about that at all until just now. 


Am I being alarmist?  I don’t know.  I do know that I would rather NOT have diabetes than have to deal with whatever complications occur with it.  I see a lot of over weight educators (even bigger than me) out waddling around.  Could we be smarter about it?  Should we?  Is our healthcare system on the verge of collapse because of this one disease?  These are all sobering questions but I suspect I’m not the only one thinking about the possibility of dealing with these issues.

Links from PBS (although not the special I watched) :

 Frontline on India: A Pound of flesh

American Family: Dealing with diabeties 

 Second Opinion: type II Diabeties





10 Responses to “Teacher absences and Health”

  1. davidbdale November 7, 2006 at 9:44 am #

    This evidence may be only anecdotal, but egads! Every. Single. Parent.? Surely this must mean something. Thanks for sharing. By the way, I found my way to your site because you’ve made the list of today’s Fastest Growing Blogs on WordPress. Here’s the link to the list:
    You must be doing something right!
    (Follow the link quickly, though. The list is updated every 6 hours.)

  2. Dick Dalton November 8, 2006 at 11:20 am #

    Thanks for stopping by, David!

    It must have been a very slow period for WordPress!LOL!

    I don’t know what it means at all. It could be stress related, as people turn to food for comfort. It could be that while children with severe disabilities require a lot of work, they do not lend themselves to gym memberships. Also, healthy food looks more expensive while convenient, cheap food (fast food) is always more laden with fat and carbs. Food is a a quick, cheap indulgence in a world where parents are sacrificing many other enjoyments for the sake of their disabled children. Now that I think about it, there are many reasons why being overweight might be more typical for parents of children with disabilities, especially severe disabilities.


  3. Alexander's Daddy November 10, 2006 at 9:44 am #

    Dick, I wouldn’t say this is what happens when the federal government gets involved. I would say this is what happens when George Bush gets involved in education. Lots of stupid goals with no funding to support it, thanks to his congress who would rather talk about abortion and gay marriage. Imagine how much further our science and education would be if we diverted all the money the pentagon is getting for being the world’s policeman into education. What if the highest paying jobs were teachers? I would much prefer spending tax dollars on education than on a huge and bloated defense used to interfer in the domestic affairs of other countries. Is it any wonder that when the vast majority of tax dollars goes for defense that we end up with low test scores compared to other industrial nations who don’t have to spend on defense because the US is taking care of that for them? It is sad that we ask our teachers to pay for some of the supplies that they need in the classrooms. It is also sad to read when people are angry that their normal child isn’t getting enough of the limited tax dollars because of all the special ed students. Its just another way that selfish people in the government can divide and conquer.

  4. Dick November 13, 2006 at 10:00 am #

    I think you might have meant this comment for my GAA post, even though it has about as much to do with GAA as it does about the health of me, my staff and parents of the students I teach.

    But I suppose we might as well blame this on GW Bush, as well. Just like he is responsible for earthquakes, tidal waves, famine, hurricanes, global warming, pollution and athlete’s foot. It’s amazing what one person can do, especially when they are supposed to be so incompetent!



  5. Alexander's Daddy November 13, 2006 at 5:52 pm #


    This is from the White House website. Apparently, George is taking credit for NCLB:

    Foreword by President George W. Bush

    Bipartisan education reform will be the cornerstone of my Administration.

    The quality of our public schools directly affects us all as parents, as students, and as citizens. Yet too many children in America are segregated by low expectations, illiteracy, and self-doubt. In a constantly changing world that is demanding increasingly complex skills from its workforce, children are literally being left behind.

    It doesnt have to be this way.

    Bipartisan solutions are within our reach. If our country fails in its responsibility to educate every child, were likely to fail in many other areas. But if we succeed in educating our youth, many other successes will follow throughout our country and in the lives of our citizens.

    This blueprint represents part of my agenda for education reform. Though it does not encompass every aspect of the education reforms I plan to propose, this blueprint will serve as a framework from which we can all work together Democrat, Republican, and Independent to strengthen our elementary and secondary schools. Taken together, these reforms express my deep belief in our public schools and their mission to build the mind and character of every child, from every background, in every part of America. And I am very open to working with Members of Congress who have additional ideas to meet our shared goals.

    I look forward to working with Congress to ensure that no child is left behind.

    Care to eat a little crow?

    Even though we disagree on politics I really enjoy your website.

  6. davidbdale November 13, 2006 at 6:15 pm #

    Let me handle this one, Dick.

    Alexander’s Daddy, before you puff yourself up again and start soliciting apologies, consider reading the original post, which addressed itself poignantly to the topics of diabetic children and their obese parents.

    If Dick elects to let your rant stand, that’s his business. If it were my site, I’d do you the service of deleting your irrelevant comment and advising you to desist before you embarrass yourself further.

  7. Dick November 14, 2006 at 1:26 am #

    Thanks for the support, David! Actually, I have touched on this elsewhere in the blog.

    A.D. is correct that GW is taking credit for NCLB and I have never denied the fact that he has or that he is an idiot for doing do. But the fact is, is that NCLB was essentially written in 1997 by Democrats and it remains the most bipartisan bill GW has ever signed. What are the odds, do you suppose, that he even read it before he signed it?

    And now to kick it back inbounds, NCLB is a comparatively minor issue when we consider that children are not just being left behind but DROPPING DEAD because they are eating themselves to death! There have been several studies showing that recess and PE as well as other activities have lessened as a result of NCLB. I don’t care which party you belong to, I know that no one in Washington anticipated this consequence when they voted for this law.

    So you see, I’m not shrinking from the debate. I actually enjoy demonstrating considerable skill in knitting together two topics seemingly dissociated from each other while flailing away at an argument bereft of substance! As if there is a politician alive who won’t take credit for a good idea whether they had anything to do with it or not i.e. a certain candidate who supposedly invented the internet! The thing is, GW it too stupid to realize that he’s taking credit for a bad idea (that never was his) that is becoming more unpopular by the day.

    I wonder whatever happened to those presidential physical fitness patches kids used to be able to earn?


  8. davidbdale November 14, 2006 at 5:00 am #

    Points taken. You clearly do not need my help keeping an argument inbounds, but since you already nudged us off the playing field yourself, let me add this about the inventor of the internet.

    Global warming, and man’s contribution to climate change, are topics of immense importance. The temperature-trend charts are startling, their implications terrifying. But why, of why, are we being lectured now by the man who had an office in the White House during eight years of unprecedented prosperity, eight years during which the numbers were already trending and the power of his office was apparently squandered.

    Just sign me: Disappointed, Disenfranchised, Independent

  9. davidbdale November 14, 2006 at 5:02 am #

    Oh, and my apologies to Alexander’s Daddy if any of my passion was misplaced.

  10. Dick November 14, 2006 at 10:42 am #

    Now you see why I eschew partisan politics. Independent is a good place to be since neither party really appears to like or want moderates anymore:-(


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