It has been a pretty hectic couple of weeks, and almost all of it has been good – all things considered. I have been having “teacher moments” again. You know, those moments when you realize just why you get into teaching in the first place. One of the biggest of these moments occurred last week.
Since the last week of October I have been doing an inquiry-based learning project with my grade 8 science class. This is a very new method of teaching for me, because it until recently I was never too certain on just how to go about doing the lessons, and I have been always a little afraid of letting go of the reins and allowing the students to “teach” themselves. Anyway, with this new project I have been getting the kids to pose and answer their own questions using the resources in the library. The topic – organ systems in the body; I have a group for each the circulatory, digestive, nervous, respiratory, and excretory systems.
It had been an easy two weeks for me as far as preparing lessons, because my only role is to guide them and ensure that they cover the course objectives in their questions. After two weeks I did need to see where they were in their projects, so I came up with the ingenious plan to have them give a spur of the moment presentation on their particular system, with only 10 minutes to get their thoughts organized before presenting. This would give me an overview of their research and give me a chance to redirect them during the following class to make sure they cover the objectives. Brilliant plan, I thought, considering I came up with it one evening on my way home from work.
The day prior to the kids’ presentations, I was called into the principal’s office; she wanted to use my grade 8 science class to do one of my formal observations, as mandated by the school division. Great, not only do I get to be observed by the principal, but she gets to see how much awesome work I have been seeing from this amazing class.
The principal came in, and she watched me teach, and she watched the kids show off what they have learned during their research so far. We were both highly impressed. The kids have been answering some great questions about their respective systems, and integration of the special needs kids into their groups was enough to bring a lump to my throat. The student assistant in the room said she nearly had a tear in her eye too.
My feedback was positive from the principal and so was that of the kids. This made my last week. This week, while it was having a few bumps with the grade 9 class was going decent. On Wednesday it was brought to my attention that I was due for another observation, this time by the superintendent. I again chose my grade 8 science for him to watch on Friday afternoon. I met with him yesterday morning to discuss my lesson before the observation. It made my day when he told me that he has been hearing good things about me. In the end I did not get my observation Friday afternoon because of a presentation, but it was enough that I got a positive comment from the superintendent.
While my work stuff has been going pretty good, things on the front of James’ seizures, not so much; over the last few weeks they have been becoming more prominent again. No missed meds, no major stressors that we can identify, and seemingly very random seizure activity. He has been missing classes, and having seizures in the middle of classes, while he is sleeping, in the car – just about anywhere. To make things more complicated is that they are not stopping.
Last Saturday morning I nearly had to call 9-1-1 because he had a seizure in his sleep, and he was in it for about 4 minutes before he finally came out of it enough to talk to me. This was followed by several smaller seizures later that day and Sunday and Monday. On Tuesday, just as I was getting up to get ready for work he had at least one big seizure, so I left him home under the watchful eye of the dog and my security cameras (that allowed me to peek into the living room to check on him). Typically if he has a couple seizures in the morning, he sleeps it off and is good by lunch time. Not this day though. I checked in on him via the camera from school, just in time to see him have a doozy of a seizure while he was lying on the sofa. Being 35 minutes away on a good day, there was little I could do, I phoned home once it appeared as though the seizure stopped – little did I know it hadn’t. I had to phone 5 times just to give him a chance to get up and stagger to the phone. When he finally answered he was in tears freaking out – “… They won’t stop, the seizures won’t stop…” At which point I told him, as soon as I get home from work, we are going to the doctor.
We ended up going to the ER in North Battleford, where all the doctors who spoke to us had one common question: “Why is he on so many medications?” Four anti-seizure meds is a lot, even the local pharmacist here in Cut Knife told me that he has never seen someone on that many. Since Tuesday, I have been talking to many teachers and staff at school, all of whom are very worried about James’ medical condition and have been giving me advice and ideas on how to proceed to get him into the epilepsy specialist in Saskatoon. The doctor in the ER took blood and found no issues, and spoke to the neurologist in Saskatoon to get some input; he wants to see him as soon as possible. So we were instructed to get that referral as soon as possible to make it happen.
Talking to James about the root of these seizures brings me to a dead end because he does not want to discuss it. I’ve pointed out a few possible causes that might be possible causes – improper sleep routine, smoking, and simply not taking care of himself as he should. Of course, he is 19 yrs old and I get denial about everything because as near as I can tell he doesn’t want to believe them to be causes.
Either way, he is having seizures, we don’t know why, and I have been wracking my brain all week trying to explain it. I have been trying to formulate theories by bouncing ideas off of other people. I have been getting input from other people trying to figure out how we can get this dealt with in a timely manner. On Wednesday I made an appointment with a new family doctor, but could not get in until December. After conferring with some of my colleagues, I made another appointment with a doctor in a clinic not far from here at Maidstone on Monday morning. We are going to be, hopefully, getting the referral we need to see the epileptologist in Saskatoon. Hopefully the seizure activity will speak for itself and we can get a rush on that appointment.
On Thursday he had two seizures at school, one while he was in the middle of English class. Throughout the afternoon he had teachers, students and student assistants checking in on him while he rested in the student lounge. This is perhaps one of the best things about being in a small school, everyone is concerned for him, and is helping me to get to the bottom of this ordeal.
Over the past year and a half since James moved in, I have gone from knowing nothing about epilepsy, to knowing a tonne of stuff about epilepsy, and yet with everything I have read gives me no clues as to why his seizures will not stop. I could blame stress and call them pseudo-seizures, except from everything I have read they cannot happen during sleep cycles, and James had 5 seizures just this morning while he was sleeping between 5 AM and 12 PM. So what gives? Also, he was more stressed out and homesick a month ago when he was mad at me for bringing him here to Saskatchewan than he is now that he has pretty much gotten over that and sees it as a positive life change. So, what is so stressful? Hard to say if anything is. I cannot believe that he seems more at peace and the least stressed than he has been in 15 months and he is having any pseudoseizures. It does not make any sense, especially given that most, although not all of them, take place while he is asleep.
Anyway, while I continue to ponder over the all of this, I must get some sleep.