I am a Student Teacher with Type 1 Diabetes and I need advice about my internship...

Any advice really.

I have hypoglycemia awareness (I am very rarely aware that I am low, so I test 8-15 times a day) and brittle Type 1 Diabetes (for the past 17 years). I am not on a pump (MedicAid does not pay for those in this state) and I take Novolog with all three meals, Levemir twice a day, and Symlin with lunch and dinner...so 7-10 injections depending on my blood sugars.

I haven't met my cooperating teacher (3rd grade) yet, but I am nervous about testing in the classroom and how to handle lows, etc. I was thinking of informing her as much as possible about my diabetes and possibly suggesting a diabetes lesson or "Diabetes 101" lesson for the kids, as well as maybe even using my diabetes as a teachable moment (math with blood sugar checks and figuring insulin using correction factors and carb ratios).

So, do any of you veteran teachers have any suggestions, advice, encouragement to give? Please?

Thanks in advance.

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Replies to This Discussion

I teach college students and I was very concerned about telling them about being type 1 at first. I found a natural opportunity when I taught in a computer lab because I had to talk about the lab policies of not eating in class. I said that while I understood the policy as a type 1 diabetic I might need to eat sometimes and therefore I couldn't ask them not to eat...blah blah blah.

The point is....I think it's hard to tell our students about this personal info...but it can be teachable. You could teach your students about the disease and test their blood. You could also help yourself...if you don't feel hypos, explaining the symptoms to your students could help you as well if you have a hypo in class!
I teach high school Bio, so I don't know how applicable my situation is to yours.

I work my D into lessons starting on day 1 and, as you can imagine, with Bio it's pretty easy to weave just about every diabetes situation imaginable into unit plans. I have 5 periods a day and a conference so I generally test once a period if things are going ok, more if need be. I don't make it obvious, or obvious that I'm trying to hide it either. I haven't met a kid yet who wasn't at least understanding, and most are curious about my testing procedure. My school is 99% Latino so, tragically, the majority of my kids have already experienced diabetes in one form or another through family members.

There's nothing that says you must reveal your situation to your mentor teacher. The ADA is pretty clear about reasonable accomodations. The best advice I can give is to play it by ear and let your own feelings tell you how much you need to, or should, discuss your D with your colleagues and students. If your new employer provides insurance, I'd also look into a CGM ASAP. Mine has made managing my BGs during class a heck of a lot easier.

Good luck!
I teach primary school (elementary) students in New Zealand so can only relay my experiences in NZ, which might be quite different for you. I have taught from 5 year olds to 10 year olds and am always very open about my type one diabetes - my students become little experts on it. It's a great chance for them to learn about the condition but more importantly I emphasise the diversity perspective - we're all different. I find it helps those children who have a medical condition themselves or even just wear glasses etc.

At the beginning of the year I always have a couple of mini-lessons about diabetes and show them all my equipment. They love to watch me do a blood-sugar test and tell me if I'm high, low or just right. It's great for them to have a chance to grade their teacher! I sometimes find it difficult to remember to test myself at the right times because the school side of things ends up getting in the way, so last year I appointed myself a 'blood sugar monitor' whose job it was to remind me to do my test and then interpret the results for me. Blood sugar monitor ended up being the most sought-after position in the classroom!

If you have hypo unawareness I would also suggest that you tell your students what to do if you ever do become unconscious or are behaving strangely. As a student teacher this isn't such a big deal because you will have your supervising teacher with you but once you are on your own in front of a class you will need to have a contingency plan in place. Definitely at this stage you should talk to your cooperating teacher about it to at least explain the basics.

Type one diabetes can be tricky to manage as a teacher but just remember you have a class full of potential little experts who will be more than willing to help you on your journey. Good luck!
I am a 2nd year high school teacher so I remember the same concerns when I was about to start my student teaching. It can be a pain because you don't always have your own room or desk to keep your diabetes stuff. I was upfront with my coop teacher and the rest of the staff at the school as well as the students. I use OmniPod now but at the time I was doing MDI and I just told the students everything about it. I tested in front of them, showed them how to do everything, I let them know when I was doing an injection and never hid it from them. A few were squeamish about needles so they would leave the room but they never had any issues with it. I explained what Type 1 was all about from day one. When I started OmniPod I was so excited I told the students all about it the first day I started it. I never shy away from testing in front of students and while I didn't flaunt it, I never hid my injections. I would imagine that 3rd graders would be very curious about it. Odds are that there is a student or two in the school with diabetes that could use a confident adult figure to make them feel more normal and comfortable. I would encourage a lesson about it. It's funny that you put this up tonight as I just put the finishing touches on a lesson for this week that has the students doing research about diabetes. The majority of people out there have absolutely no clue what diabetes and the life of a diabetic is all about and some education would be a great idea.

The practical advice I would have for you would to be very open with your coop teacher and the administrators.

Make sure you are always over-prepared for any diabetic situation (ie: stuff for lows, plenty of extra supplies and insulin, etc.).

Be sure you never neglect your diabetes because you are worried about the students or staff seeing you. I would rather test my BG in the middle of a lesson (which I have done several times without missing a beat) than turn pale, sweaty, and shaky or risk passing out just to keep it under the radar. Think of the impact a simple BG test would have vs. collapsing in front of a room full of 3rd graders.

Be sure that the adults you are working with are fully aware of what they need to do in case of an emergency so that they can feel comfortable. I would suggest making a list or note of some sort that they can count on if the worst happens.

Another thing I try to remember is that Diabetes is my burden to bear and I do not play the "diabetes card" even if I deserve to. Not to say that you do, but I always remind myself of this because it makes people feel more comfortable and often keeps the "Diabetic Police" people off your back. I have seen a few diabetics (usually irresponsible ones) that constantly pull out the card and complain all the time and this often gets a negative response from others.

Ultimately, if you have had this for 17 years you know everything to do and you will be fine. You will figure it out as you go and all will be well. Just hang in there. Student teaching is an incredible experience, full of ups and downs, successes and failures. Be sure to manage the stress so that it doesn't affect your BG and enjoy the ride. And hey, assuming you get a teaching job in a state that doesn't completely screw their teachers out of insurance, you will be able to get a pump someday soon and life will get even easier.

I know I am one of the more open diabetics out there and I am always a bit disappointed with diabetics that hide their disease, but to each their own. This is how I have always been about it and it hasn't been a problem for me. I have found that others are more understanding and comfortable with it because I am so casual about it. I have heard of people that frown on diabetics testing and injecting openly. I hope someday I have the opportunity to look one of those people square in the eye and let them know my feelings about that. As long as I am sanitary and responsible I see no problem with it. I feel like having this disease and being an educator makes it my responsibility to be a steward for Diabetes Awareness. However, you may want to be more "on the down-low" about it and that is your choice. As others have posted, you have rights under the ADA.

Good luck and keep us informed of how it goes.
Teacher reported that I can teach the students about my diabetes my first day in the classroom as a part of their Health unit. Testing in classroom has yet to be "tested." Teacher seems squeamish about injections, needles, and blood...so that will be interesting. May have to drop my more unsavory and unhygenic diabetic practices like sticking my finger in my mouth after I test. What are we supposed to use again? Cotton balls?

Should I have a sharps bottle? What about test strips (not HIV+, but people can get weird about stuff with blood on it) and alcohol swabs? Same bottle?
Oh and thank you all very much for your replies! I only hid my diabetes once in the past 17 years and regretted that bad low in basketball. Good thing a kid on the team went to the same school as I did when I was diagnosed or I would have really been in trouble... I don't hide my diabetes. I do inject through clothes into my stomach though when I am out since it just seems simpler. I have had friends, strangers, and even family members object to public diabetes care which bothers me, but I refuse to go into a bathroom to check my sugar. I will acquiesce for injections at times or warn needle-phobic people when it happens, but any more than that seems silly to me.

The teacher is having me inform the principal and the school nurse, so I shall have to see what they know about diabetes. I will meet all of the staff tomorrow afternoon as a part of their in-service day. I am apprehensive, but tentatively hopeful, and very excited to start my internship!
Every year I have a lecture for my 7th graders and a review for my fellow staff/teachers. It is all about safety and keeping you safe and the kids safe and education is always the best way. With both groups I spend time with What is Diabetes, What are the procedures and Where is my Stuff. There are crazy answers to all three from both groups.

Most of the kids and too many adults really have no idea what diabetes is and what the symptoms are to watch for. I have a 'cartoon' sheet of things to watch for (high and low) and go over what are my most likely signs. I also go over what to do when they see a sign ("Mrs. S, are you feeling ok?" - that is my you-better-test cue).

The procedures are simple and REALLY a good idea for EVERY classroom. I am surprised with how many classrooms don't have a procedure for what to do if the adult/teacher gets sick. We have two emergency passes marked with a red cross. All the teachers and office have seen them. Whoever finds me sick stays with me and sends one pass to the office for help and one pass to the closest teacher on the floor. The 'finder' gets me my medical bag and waits to see if I need anything (juice, snack, insulin) from my refrigerator.

Where is my stuff? ALWAYS in the same place so that the kids can bring my medical bag complete with my cell phone (endo on speed dial), get in my fridge, or hand me whatever I need.

All these procedures really pay off -- my students and staff/teachers feel confident because they know what to do. Fear seems to come from lack of knowledge so often. When you do test or medicate, try to be casual-this-is-no-big-deal about it. Most of the time my kids don't even think twice when I casually go sit behind my desk and test - heck, sometimes I just keep lecturing. It has become so very everyday that it is of no remark. The less drama the better. They understand when I have to eat something so again it is of no remark.

Good Luck! You are going to teach them so much! Including that diabetics are real people and worth knowing.
What a great discussion! I am a T1 and will be doing my student teaching next spring. I have also wondered about how to handle this- thanks for all of the great insights!
I think it's an excellent idea, the using the tabulation of carbs vs insulin as a math exercise...all the while bringing awareness to diabetes symptoms. Very frugal! Don't be concerned about testing in class...for the better part, little attention is diverted to it. Once you've explained your needs, they will be more than understanding...and VERY compassionate. My grades are 1 to 5.
The grade 1s are still very self directed, so there is still an aura of "that's not fair" re my munching in class...and though I have demonstrated to all a sample testing, the grade 1s are still apprehensive about the sight of blood ( a couple of the older ones as well). So kept that very low key for the younger classes for fear of having to scrape one off the floor ;)
A colleague who teaches lower levels, wears a pump, as does one of her students...as shared how on occasion it's a joke as to who is beeping!
So....not to worry...it'll all be fine!
Hello Sidkd5:

Who to tell... or not to tell is completely and entirely your choice alone. Some wear a sign around their neck, others do not tell a single soul. I believe there is tremendous merit to both views. If you want to tell, and are comortable then do so.

The answer to the testing, and lows questions is easily solved. Let yourself run higher, no testing necessary. Counter to typical "wisdom" and many peoples stated "goal" but it is solely a personal choice. IThere wass no testing which existed prior to the mid 1980's. Testing only existed solely in a hostial lab.

If you wish to make it teachable perhaps highly "selective" sharing is in order? I am never a fan of " billboard diabetes" approach. Can it work, sure. But it is not my teaching path... Merely my opinion, I could surely be mistaken...

Jeff
Update! :-)

The teacher had me teach the kids (on my first day in the classroom) a lesson on Diabetes 101 (and tested their knowledge on a short quiz afterward, too) as part of their Health unit. One kid a week is given a chart of cartoonish hypo symptoms and told to watch me for these symptoms. The kids have caught two of my lows and when I had my first bad one in front of them, I paused before fixing it and asked them to look at my complexion and my shaky hands and any other differences in how I looked so that they know what to look for. I had a week of really bad lows DAILY my first 2 weeks in the classroom due to needing A LOT LESS (like 1:6 carb ratio goes to 1:15) insulin, now they happen about once or twice a week - usually from stress. Nervous about teaching on my own, but the teacher in the room next to mine has some family experience with Type 1 and several of the students have parents or relatives with some form of diabetes.

During my Diabetes 101 lesson, I gave a brief overview of what diabetes was, how it was taken care of (both types), emphasized that I had Type 1, talked about what glucose and ketones were and the symptoms of low blood sugar along with how to fix it. I also tested my sugar in front of them and gave them the one-time-only chance of watching me take a shot before lunch. I brought Rufus, the diabetic teddy bear, along to help teach them about diabetes, and in retrospect, he will get the shot the next time I teach this. My 3rd graders were pretty interested by my diabetes and I feel I taught them a lot about it.

I am trying really hard to get my a1c's and weight down, so running high is not an option for me. Thank you so much for all of your replies. Devon, we should chat some time....when I'm not superbusy with my internship like now. Heh. Maybe at Spring Break? (Not a pick up, by the way. :-) I'm already in a relationship.)

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