10 Things I Want Teachers to Know About Their Spoonie Students
For the past year and a half I’ve been struggling with a chronic illness. I was originally diagnosed and treated for Lyme disease. I got better for a short time period before getting sick again. When all of my symptoms came back I ended up having to drop out of the fourth quarter of my sophomore year. I then spent my time going to a doctor searching for a diagnosis. I was diagnosed with amplified musculoskeletal pain syndrome in June of this year. Now that I have a diagnosis and a treatment plan, my parents and I decided I should go back to school for my junior year. Even though I am back at school, I’m not better. I’m still fighting my chronic illness daily, so I came up with an honest list of things I wish my teachers knew about their spoonie students.
1. Don’t Make Me Prove How Sick I Am
When I’m at school it is easier for me to act like I’m perfectly fine. However, when I’m at school acting like I’m healthy and fine I feel pressure to prove to my teachers I’m actually sick. If someone has a cast or crutches, no one questions if they’re faking it, so please don’t pressure me to prove how sick I am.
2. Don’t Go Overboard With Questions
For me personally, I’m upfront with my health and I will answer any questions my teachers have. However, don’t go overboard with your questions. If I’m in the middle of my day, pushing through, it can throw me off to stop and talk about everything that is going on. Also, on some days it is harder for me to talk about my experience, so wait for me to volunteer the information.
3. Don’t Ask if I’m ‘Better Yet’ or Tell Me to ‘Get Well Soon’
I understand that when you ask me if I’m “better yet” or you wish me well, you do it because you care. However, constantly having to tell people I’m not better can bring me down, and when you wish me well I can’t help but feel slight pressure to get better. Instead, ask, “How are you?” or just say, “Hope you have a great day!”
4. It’s My Story
It’s my story and I’m willing to share it, but I want to be the person to do the sharing. So if you’re going to talk to me about my chronic illness, please wait until we are in private. I don’t want to have to deal with all the questions that arise when others overhear. So if you want to talk to me please just be subtle about it.
5. Don’t Single Me Out
As someone with a chronic illness, I often feel like an outsider because I can’t always do things with others. Please don’t single me out in front of others because I am sick. I’m so much more than my illness, so I don’t want to be singled out. Also, I don’t necessarily want everyone else to know my story.
6. Be Understanding
School is stressful and it’s even more stressful when you have a chronic illness. If you are a student with a chronic illness, having an understanding teacher can be a godsend because the alternative just causes more stress. If you’re a teacher, please be understanding, educate yourself and don’t put extra pressure on me.
7. Don’t Pressure Me
It is easy for teachers to put extra pressure on students with chronic illness without even realizing it. Pressure because we constantly feel as though we have to prove we’re sick, pressure to meet deadlines, pressure to put school before our health. For myself personally, I have a hard time putting myself first, so when there’s pressure to complete stuff for school I put the assignment before my health. So please try to limit the pressure you put on your students.
8. Take Time to Educate Yourself
I cannot emphasize how much I appreciate it when someone goes out of their way to educate themselves on my illness. I’m not asking you to become an expert on chronic illness – just Google it for a few minutes. If you understand what I’m going through it’s easier for you to be understanding.
9. Appreciate What I’m Doing
I’m not asking for a gold star, a pat on the back or anything like that. Just know I’m putting in a lot of hard work and effort day in and day out. I’m doing everything I can to get stuff done for your class and appear like I’m fine. Even though it might not always seem like it, I am working really hard.
10. Teach Me
Lastly… just teach me. I come to class because I want to learn. I may be dealing with tough issues, but when I’m in your class I’m there to learn so please teach me. Also, thank you to all of the teachers out there! You do a tough job that not just anyone can do. So from students everywhere, thank you teachers everywhere!
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Thinkstock photo via monkeybusinessimages.