Monday, October 14, 2013

Slice of Life: Connecting Through Stories 10/15

Ruth and Stacey at Two Writing Teachers
host the Slice of Life every Tuesday.

Last week in writing class, I modeled writing about an important moment in my life.  I knew it was important to come up with a moment that might resonate with my students so that they would be able to pick a good moment to write about.  We discussed how a snapshot moment in writing shows instead of telling and I shared a few examples of snapshots.  Then, I started sharing about the moment I had chosen to write about.

I chose to tell my students about the moment that my dog got hit by a car when I was in middle school. I told them that I chose this moment because it was so important to me.  It was the really hard lesson I had in which I realized that it was a good idea to listen to my dad.  I watched as my students nodded along as I told them this.

Then I proceeded to tell them the story.  I was out picking up rotten apples from the ground under the apple tree and chose not to put my dog on his chain.  I thought my dog would stay there with us and he didn't.  We realized my dog was not there and then proceeded to call him.  We were on the other side of the house when we heard the screech of brakes.  When we got there, the dog was still alive but barely. We rushed him to the emergency vet, but he had too much internal bleeding for them to do anything. This was absolutely devastating to me at this age, especially because I didn't follow my dad's directions and I felt terribly guilty about the whole thing.

As I told the story, I filled out the graphic organizer the students would be using.  I talked about sensory details and how I was feeling.  I gave them a piece of my history.

Then, when it was time for them to start writing and I was circulating the room, I was bombarded with questions. What kind of dog was it? Did you get another dog? I also heard the stories from my students. It was overwhelming to hear about the way this story connected with my students.  So many of them have experienced something similar with a beloved pet.

After reading their snapshots this weekend, I realized again how important it is to model in a real way for students.  I chose a real moment that was important to me.  We all connected through this experience and then my students found moments that mattered to them.  And the best part is that I found a way to connect in a deeper way to my students and now I will know them in a deeper way through reading their writing.

So much of what we do in the classroom relies on the relationships that we build.  My writing lesson last week reminded me that the best way to build a relationship is through sharing things that matter to us.  By choosing a moment I thought would resonate with my middle school students, I inadvertently chose a moment that we all could share.

I hope to find more of these moments throughout this year in our writing workshop.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Slice of Life: Feeling Loved

In the last few weeks as I have shared my recent medical issues with my friends and family, the outpouring of support I received was amazing.  I have heard from colleagues, friends, and family.  So many people have sent me messages about prayers and thoughts sent my way.

I am overwhelmed by this.  I am so lucky to have so many caring people in my life.  It makes me think about how important it is to be there for others.  In this age of social networking and the negative thoughts that we see so often, it is amazing to be surrounded with positive thoughts.

I just keep thinking about how lucky I am to have wonderful people in my life that will go the extra mile to let me know they are thinking of me. I am truly blessed and I will work to pay it forward so that others that are not so lucky might feel a bit of this feeling.  I feel loved and am so grateful for that.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Slice of Life: My World Turned Upside Down

Ruth and Stacey at Two Writing Teachers
host the Slice of Life every Tuesday.

Three weeks ago, I came home from school after a long day on my feet, took off my shoes, and put my feet up.  My feet felt weird.  They were feeling kind of swollen but also tingling and like they were asleep.  I figured they were just tired and mad at me...after all it was not too far into the school year and I was not yet used to being on my feet all day.  I went to bed a little concerned but not too worried.

Then I woke up with tingling and numb feet on Tuesday.  I still was trying not to be too concerned, there were a number of things that could explain it.  I had a text conversation with my sister the doctor and decided to just relax and go with the flow.  But she warned me to pay attention if the numbness and tingling started spreading.  Of course, later that afternoon I started to have tingling in my lower legs. Now, I was a bit worried.  I went home and stayed off my feet. If pure willpower had been enough to cure me, I would have been cured.  I did not want to have to go in to the emergency room.  I decided that it wasn't really spreading so I chose not to go that night.  (I was also refusing to be sick because I had organized an author visit at school for the following day)

Wednesday morning I woke up at 3am to the weirdest sensation ever.  My feet felt like they were going to explode out of their skin.  At this point, I was worried.  I requested a substitute and went in to urgent care.  There they ran a bunch of tests, but diagnosed me with neuropathy.  There wasn't anything they could do for it so they sent me home with a new vocabulary word and directions to follow-up with a neurologist.  I went to school at 10am and was able to host the author and it even went better than it would have because my class had the substitute teacher and I could be there just for the visit.  I had a great time meeting Jasper Fforde and seeing students that were really excited to meet a real author (from Wales, no less).

Did I mention that I was walking funny and losing my balance easily?  The three flights of stairs to my classroom seemed extra daunting so I was glad that I wasn't working.  I went home and rested and tried to get a hold of the neurologist for a follow up appointment.  No dice.

The next few days were normal, except for the fact that I couldn't really feel my feet at times, or they were extra tingly and uncomfortable at other times.  Then, on Friday,tingling and numbness started in my groin area.  I talked to my sister the doctor again on Sunday and she insisted that I immediately go to the emergency room.  I guess numbness in that area can sometimes be spinal cord compression and this was something to get figured out.  So, I headed off to the hospital.  They did a whole battery of tests on me.  The doctor in the ER wanted to order a STAT MRI, but didn't think they would let her do that.  This hospital was small and there wasn't a radiologist in on Sunday night so they didn't do the MRI.  She sent me home with a prescription for the STAT MRI and instructions to expect a phone call the next morning to schedule it.

Now I was feeling awful because I was going to miss school for the second day in the first three weeks of the school year.  This was not the way I wanted to start the year.  I stayed home on Monday so that I could schedule the MRI as soon as possible.  I got the appointment for noon on Monday and then played the waiting game.  I got to the hospital, registered, and was brought back to do the MRI right away.  I changed, locked up all my things, and headed off to the MRI machine.  Then, they handed me some earplugs.  I should have expected it but I didn't.  I get super nervous when I can't hear well. Then I was lying on the table and the technician put a cage-like thingy over my head.  I got more nervous. Then, I asked how long this was going to take.  She said about an hour.  That was the last straw.  I couldn't do it.  I did not know I was going to be claustrophobic but this was not happening.  So I had to leave. Because it was an MRI that was ordered by an ER doctor, I didn't have anyone to ask to reorder the MRI with sedation or with anxiety meds.  I went home frustrated and started calling my primary doctor, the emergency department where I had been seen, and the neurologist that I was supposed to follow up with.  Two hours later, when I hadn't gotten anywhere with those doctors, I decided to go back to the ER.  This time, I went to a bigger hospital.

By this time, it was already Monday evening.  I had another long wait in the ER, but because I still had the numbness in the groin, I was a higher priority with the triage and didn't have to wait long to be brought back.  This doctor did not waste time, she reviewed everything that had been done at the other ER and ordered the MRI right away with anxiety meds this time.  She decided to get a scan of my brain as well as the lumbar part of my spine.  When the results were back, the doctor consulted my primary doctor and decided to admit me to the hospital.  They had found lesions in my brain scan and wanted the neurologist to take a look.  Before bringing me up to the room, they decided to do a spinal tap so that the results could be back in the morning.  On Tuesday, the neurologist ordered yet another MRI of the rest of my spine while we were waiting for the spinal tap results.

Tuesday was a long day of waiting.  I did not get on the MRI schedule until the evening so I spent the day watching HGTV and trying to read a little bit.  I think I also slept some as well.  On Tuesday night, the neurologist called to talk to me and let me know the diagnosis.  He had mentioned it in the morning, and I knew that is what they were trying to figure out, but it was difficult to get the diagnosis.  I have Multiple Sclerosis.  I am not crazy.  I am not a hypochondriac.  Those weird symptoms that I always seem to get have a cause to them.  It explains a lot.  But it is not a fun thing to find out about yourself.

Being a nerd, and having a doctor for a sister, I have a lot of research to do.  My sister has already sent me multiple articles to read.  I know what my genius hour project will be about.  I have done some reading but this week was mostly about getting back to normal and catching up at school (I missed the entire week last week).

What has been the most difficult about this time is that the world continues to revolve while my brain stalls a little bit and I just feel like crawling under the covers and hiding from the world for a time.  I know this is not the worst thing that could happen to me by far, but it takes me from the world of healthy people into the world of people with a pre-existing condition.  I have an auto-immune disease. That is hard to fathom.  It is hard to accept.  But I will get there.  I just need a little time.  For now, I hope this flare-up goes away and I can focus on moving forward. One day at a time.