OfficeMax created the “A Day Made Better” event to bring awareness to the needs of today’s teachers and to “work to erase” teacher funded classrooms. When I read that Leighann, as a Max Mom, was holding a contest specifically to allow teachers of children with diabetes to get the accolades and credit they deserve, I wasted no time in preparing my nomination of Caleb’s current teacher, Mrs. Muller.
I’m happy to say that my entry was picked as a winner and I was able to present Mrs. Muller with a $100 gift card to OfficeMax.
Here is what I wrote. It comes from my heart.
As a background, Caleb has had four different teachers and seven different nurses at school since being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Every teacher he has had has been loving, caring and concerned for Caleb’s well-being. Not one gave resistance to learning what they needed to do for his special needs. But Caleb’s current teacher has been exponentially superior in providing Caleb a safe and caring environment.
There are many teachers that learn to count carbs, administer insulin, understand how to treat a low blood sugar and even inject glucagon if needed. Caleb is blessed to have a wonderful school nurse who has the primary responsibility for all of those things.
What Caleb’s teacher has offered him is as important, and some may argue more important than all of that. Caleb’s teacher has embraced Caleb as Caleb first, and Caleb as a child living with diabetes second. That doesn’t mean she gives his diabetes less importance. She gives it the absolute most importance by thinking of Caleb as a person first, while still managing his needs as a child living with diabetes. She appreciates the emotional toll that living with a chronic condition can have on a person and that labeling Caleb as “the diabetic” is harmful emotionally.
What is extraordinary about what Caleb’s teacher does, is what she doesn’t do. She doesn’t give his diabetes unnecessary attention.
That may actually sound like it’s easy to do, as if it’s just a matter of ignoring it. If you have ever managed the care of a child with diabetes, you know that it is, in fact, very difficult to do. It’s like being a magician using smoke and mirrors to lead a normal life while managing a very not normal, extremely intrusive thing.
Caleb’s teacher has been able to accommodate every single request I have made without the slightest hesitation. She has coordinated a daily schedule that provides for normalcy in the classroom and inclusion of Caleb in everything the other students do, when they do it, to work around his diabetes schedule. When there are unplanned needs to check Caleb’s sugar, they flow as smoothly as possible and without obvious interruption to the class instruction.
Although she could, she doesn’t just pass him off to the school nurse. She expresses interest and willingness to learn all the details of his care to the end of making a better day for Caleb. She goes out of her way to talk to the nurse to review the day’s events when the children are not around. No one asked her to do this. She doesn’t have to do it. She wants to do it. For Caleb.
Of course it is important for our children to be medically safe at school. It is equally important that our children’s emotional well-being be cared for. Studies show that living with a chronic condition like diabetes that takes constant, day after day maintenance can lead to severe emotional problems including depression and socialization weaknesses. I know that Caleb’s emotional health is being cared for. I know this because he gets off the bus each day with a smile on his face and skip in step that I haven’t seen before and didn’t even realize was missing. I know this because anything diabetes related about his day is the LAST thing he brings up when it used to be the first.
I hope from the above that you can see that Caleb’s teacher is passionate about the well-being of her students. She is dedicated to her students no matter what their differences. Her innovation is in her approach to Caleb. She accepts him and all of him fully and completely. Where it would be easy to let Caleb stand out while he cares for his diabetes, she has been able to creatively balance his needs with the needs of all the children in her class without skipping a beat.
I will never be able to thank Caleb’s teacher enough for this. This is not something that can be repaid. But $100 is a start.
I feel very strongly that the emotional as well as the medical needs of students with diabetes be prioritized equally. In my opinion, Mrs. Muller has set the standard of care in meeting and properly balancing both of them.
To teachers everywhere, whatever the needs of your students may be, I raise my glass to you for everything you do for and give to our children. Thank you.
Mrs. Muller played an important role in making WDD 2010 special which you can read here (paragraph about half way down starting, “Perhaps…”).