Something I never would have suspected before becoming a teacher is just how many kids are really sick. I mean truly, chronically ill.
We all know that tons of kids fake or exaggerate sickness every day so they can stay out of school, but in the majority of classes I’ve ever taught, there has been a student with some physical or emotional condition that kept them out of school so often that it hurt their grades and education. These are serious conditions that they couldn’t possibly help.
Years ago I had a student who developed an inoperable brain cancer. The next year I transferred to a new school where I had a student who developed an inoperable brain cancer. Maybe it was me? The first girl thrived and graduated. The other girl traveled and tried various treatments, but we lost track of her. Her mother fell out of contact with the school and the student ended up being withdrawn for non-attendance.
Some of the sicknesses that I’ve learned more about because I’ve had students who had to miss a lot of school because of them: Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, social anxiety disorder, vertigo, and mono, which is more common than you think.
Apparently, kids can get pneumonia while living in the desert. I even had a student go to Hawaii and get pneumonia.
I’ve received plenty of long emails from moms who want to introduce their child’s special medical needs (and rightfully so), though one that stands out is from only two years ago when a mother wrote to warn that her daughter might be woozy that day because she had a major relapse in an ongoing sickness, but demanded against her mother’s wishes that she go to school that day because she didn’t want to fall behind.
I’ve had two deaf students and two in wheelchairs, though never one who was legally blind. I had my first autistic student this last year–he was very shy in person but communicated via email very well.
Students also get hurt a lot. Cheerleading must be the most dangerous sport in the world–one year I had three girls who each sustained an injury that required surgery, because of falls in cheer.
I’ve known one girl who was lost a leg in a car accident due to a friend’s reckless driving, and one young man whose off-roading triggered a rare lung disorder that killed him. I’ve had one student commit suicide. Once school where I worked had three students die in different incidents in one year.
With all the major medical problems that so many students suffer, frankly, it’s a miracle that our society’s educational endeavors manage to limp along at all.