Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Meanwhile, At School...

Recently, as some of you may recall, we had a bit of a situation at school involving a bully.

I did indeed telephone Joseph's teacher (Ms. W) about this classmate-- the one with the unhealthy interest in my son's medical ID. She addressed the issue immediately-- sitting "L" down and calling the boy on his actions -- then scheduling our diabetes talk with the class shortly after.

According to Ms. W, the boy felt quite badly about what he'd done.


On the day of our talk, Joseph and I were to speak just half an hour before the kids would leave for home-- and thankfully, there were no other speakers scheduled. (That's right, this time I would not be following the Governor's wife.)

When I arrived, stepping quietly to the front of the classroom, I was immediately struck by the fact that this was a much bigger class than last year's group-- both in size and number.

Even their desks looked bigger.

Scanning the room, I saw many, many new faces-- and I noticed L sitting right up front. I lingered on him for just a moment longer than the rest -- giving him a serious, knowing look -- as I placed our black backpack on the desk in front of me.

Then I heard a chair scrape across the floor, looked up and saw Joseph making his way quickly forward.

Once by my side, he shot me a smile, then turned to face his classmates-- nodding and making eye contact with many of them -- while I pulled out his meter, a syringe, a bottle of insulin, an infusion set and The Calorie King.

Then I took a deep breath, looked up with a smile, and jumped right in:

"Well then, let’s start at the beginning, where diabetes starts-- in the pancreas.... anyone know where that is?"

Hands shot up, and Joseph called on each of them.

Together, we drew diagrams on the white board of a pancreas, the bloodstream, and a cell-- illustrating how insulin "unlocks" the body's cells, allowing glucose to get in so the body has fuel for energy. For growth...

And when I turned and asked them all what happens if your pancreas can't make insulin anymore, a pretty girl with large brown eyes responded immediately:

"Then you die."

For a brief moment, I stumbled. It was very strange-- almost as if the girl had hit me.

No, that's not right.

More like she'd hit my son.

Everyone was very quiet-- including Joseph.

And then I found my voice.

"Well, uh, yes-- but not if you can get insulin from someplace else."

And so we were back on track. Discussing the ways that Joseph can receive insulin, with him lifting his shirt to reveal his pump, his infusion site; talking about carbs and why Joseph must count them; explaining highs and lows-- and the dangers of both.

Yes, it was all going really well-- until the bell rang signaling the end of the school day.

And while none of the kids seemed anxious for our talk to end (they clearly had many more questions), Ms. W reminded us all that their buses were waiting.

"Everyone, you need to gather your things... now, I'm wondering if Joseph would be willing to answer questions tomorrow, after lunch," she told the class. Then turning to Joseph, "How do you feel about that?"

"Sure, that'd be great," Joseph told her, looking very pleased.

So the next day, when he called from the classroom during a late afternoon snack, Joseph held out the phone so that I could hear a chorus of voices shout: "HELLO!"

Then we figured out his bolus together.

"How did your Q & A go, Bud?

"Great, Mom. They all asked a lot of really good questions-- like if I have to sleep with the pump on and if it hurts. Stuff like that."

He paused for maybe two seconds, and then:

"Mom, it was good."

And as we ended our call, I heard another kid trying to get Joseph's attention, followed by those voices again:


Yup, it was very good.


In Search Of Balance said...

I am so happy for both you and your son, and I hope that your talk helps foster a greater understanding of his situation among his classmates. Good for him.

David Edelman said...

I am sitting at my desk beaming. Sometimes the silver lining is bigger than the cloud.

Vivian said...

That is so awesome Sandra. Who knows we may be educating the next generation so that they care less about discrimination and more about the cure. Good job, both of you.

George said...

Wow that is so great! What a great mom and a great kid! The trickle down effect no doubt.

Shannon said...

I love when you post about your talks with Joseph's classmates. Gives me food for thought for when the time comes with Brendon's class.

Also, kids are so accepting when the mystery is lifted from things.

Jamie said...

That's so great! I read these posts you write about talking to Joseph's classmates and it gives me a sense of what it's going to be like when Danielle goes to school. I'm sure we'll be doing the same thing.

I'm so glad he did that - now that his classmates have an understanding of the disease and what he needs to do to keep things in control (or the best control possible). I hope there are no more problems at school for him.

Way to go!

Kerri. said...

I love what David said: "Sometimes the silver lining is bigger than the cloud." I echo that sentiment entirely.

Good for you, Sandra. And for Joseph.

julia said...

What a great result!

Scott K. Johnson said...

I found myself just beaming too - what a great thing to do.

I'm sure it makes Joseph feel more comfortable about things while he's at school.

You guys rock!!

Molly said...

You are able to write in an amazing way. I had my own mom read it and she felt the connection as she had done that with me when I was little. It's an important job to educate people. Thanks.

Rachel said...

Greg's mom did that for his sixth grade classmates shortly after he was diagnosed. She did such a great job (as a former nurse) that they asked her back to do presentations every year at a lower grade level (I think 2nd or 3rd grade). She did those for several years.

ECR said...

It sounds like you make a wonderful mother and son presentation team. I think your great communication skills (public speaking AND writing) will really make a difference in your advocacy.

art-sweet said...

Once again, I find myself wanting to be adopted by you.

Jess Riley said...

I love when stories have happy endings. Bravo to both of you!!!

Nicole P said...

So proud (AGAIN) have Joseph - and of you. I still can't believe I missed out on meeting you... You have to come back SOON.

Carey said...

This is all so helpful to me as we prepare to send Charlie to kindergarten in the fall. Thanks.

Kelsey said...

That's awesome!

I would think it would be fulfilling as a parent to watch Joseph mature with his disease and be able to answer his classmates questions with such a great attitude!

What an amazing kid you've got!

bethany said...

it's so great how it worked out ... not only did you help this group of kids to understand what your son is going through but you've given them a little more knowledge to get them through life ... great job!

BetterCell said...

The best place for bullies are to be put out of the school (they are disruptive to other students) and on the floor(face down). The School and Teachers are responsible to prevent and intervene so that "bullying" does not occur.

Sandra Miller said...



"Sometimes the silver lining is bigger than the cloud." Beautifully put, David. :-)

And Bettercell-

I totally understand the frustration you express here about bullies at school-- when the incident with "L" happened, I was angry beyond words.

Thus, I'm very glad that we were able to address the issue before it escalated to something much worse.

I'm also grateful that the folks at Joseph's school are extremely sensitive to (and work very hard at preventing) bullying.

Sadly, this will be Joseph's last year at this school-- then it's on to... middle school.

Just typing it makes my stomach lurch.

A much bigger school, all adolescents, with two grades of older, bigger kids attending, new principal, new teachers, new nurse ...

Breathe, Sandra... breathe...

Penny said...

Once again Sandra, you made me cry.

That kid of yours is somethings else. And, his mom, she's awesome!