After several days of being knocked on my behind due to pneumonia, I am finally starting to feel a bit like my normal self. And I want to share how this experience has made me think about how I want to do things differently for my students.
I started not feeling quite right on Sunday evening, but I attributed it to a tough workout on Friday and the appearance of chilly weather after several long weeks of it being hot and humid. I figured a nice hot bubble bath and calling it an early night would do the trick. I was kind of right - I felt better Monday morning, but as the day went on I started to feel worse. By the time I finished my walking path duty (a duty where we escort our walkers about 1/2 mile on our walking path) I was ready to go home and go directly to bed.
Usually when I get sick, it's allergies, a cold, or the ever popular sinus infection. I can't tell you the last time I had a fever of 100 or higher, and I always have the same types of symptoms - stuffy, stuffy head and a scratchy throat. I suppose I'm a creature of habit. This time was different. I was achy, I didn't want to eat or if I was hungry when I did eat it made my stomach hurt, and I started to have a cough. But no sore throat, no runny nose, no congested head. This just wasn't right, and that was confirmed when I woke up Tuesday morning with a fever of 101.3.
After throwing together some stuff for my sub, I left school and while still sitting in my car in the parking lot I called my doctor to get an appointment to be seen. My guess was the flu, but I just wanted to get checked because I have a student with special health needs in my class. I was promptly told by the very nice phone receptionist that there were no appointments available, but I could leave a message for the doctor. I went through the whole story, and I emphasized that I don't get fevers - something was wrong and I really needed to be seen. She apologized but repeated that there were no appointments and the doctor would get back to me as soon as he had a chance.
I went home and went right to bed. I could tell as soon as the Advil wore off, and my fever was still 101.1. More Advil, more aches, and I tried calling two more local doctors' offices to see me. Both had appointments available, but because I would be a "new patient" I couldn't have those appointments because I would need more time. Perhaps I would like an appointment for Thursday or Friday, or I could go to their clinic, a 25 minute drive from my house, because that's where they sent most people with colds.
To say I was frustrated when I hung up the phone doesn't even begin to describe it. *I* know myself. *I* know there is something seriously wrong, and the people who were supposed to be helping me weren't listening. Back to bed I went wondering if it was maybe time to head to an Urgent Care facility. The decision actually ended up being made for me. After taking my next dose of Advil and sitting in on an online meeting, I took my temperature and it was 103. I called my mom, a nurse, and asked her what to do. In her always loving mom voice she said to me, "Get your ass in the car and let Jerry take you to Urgent Care."
We pulled into the parking lot of the Patient First facility at 8:20. I signed in, and the receptionist immediately got my information. I finished with her and waited approximately 2 minutes before the assistant took me back. Each person I interacted with asked me lots of questions, talked with me, showed care and compassion, made sure I was as comfortable as possible, and answered my questions. As you read up above, I ended up being diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia. Just knowing that I was right - there WAS something wrong - helped me start feeling better immediately. After having my concerns pushed aside all day, the staff at Patient First did exactly what their name said and took great care of me. If it hadn't been for them (and my mom's sound advice) who knows what might have happened.
I've spent a lot of time sleeping, coughing, and thinking the last few days. While being so sick certainly was upsetting and worrisome, the fact that the "professionals" weren't listening to me made me feel ten times worse.
I wonder how often kids know there's something wrong - they know which letters don't look or sound right, they could tell us which part of the math problem doesn't make sense, they could tell us which parts are hard to understand - but we teachers don't listen to them. I fear that often times, in the spirit of "cram as much down their throats so they are ready for the test", we don't listen to our kids when they try to tell us what is wrong or we don't even give them a chance to speak at all.
So here's another way that my life experiences are going to help me be a better teacher. Whether it gets me in trouble or not, I will make the time to listen to my kids. I'm going to expect that we be partners in their learning, I will ask them what's making the work challenging, I will listen to their answers, and I will work with them to help them feel better and be successful.