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) :