A Day In The Life Of Scott

If it can't be expressed in figures, it is not science; it is opinion


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I couldn’t be happier.

 

Things have been going swimmingly in the last few weeks. Classes have been awesome and now that I am getting to know the students better it’s been fun. This is what teaching is supposed to be like, I think – when you start the day on a natural high and finish the day the same way because there is nothing bringing you down. Not even the one kid who doesn’t want to do his work.

I am still swamped with correcting, but I can get some done tomorrow and Monday there won’t be any kids in.

I have been at school for three weeks and already I have begun to develop a positive rapport with students. This is half the battle when it comes to classroom management, but even still in the past there have been issues with my skills in this area. As I was on my way home from work on Friday afternoon I was thinking to myself about how nice it has been to be able to shape these students into the type of people I want in my classroom – be respectful and mindful of the few rules I have. They have been set in their ways, but I am fussy with regard to how I want things done, and I will not have it any other way. Just as an example, swearing is something that I will tolerate to some degree (except when it is directed at me) although I prefer not to hear it at all. I tend to pick my battles, correct the swearing and move on with the life. I am slowly getting them to the point where I’m hardly hearing a curse word out of them, and there is a quick “oops” when they do slip it out. Proper thing!

I felt it was important that I thank the two people who helped me so much last year with helping me to improve my skills in the area of classroom management; so I emailed them the other day to let them know how their support has been a huge benefit so far this year. I realize that I still have some growth to do, but that will come in time. Now that I have a solid base to build upon, it will be a lot easier.

I will be pushing some of them to join the ranks and do a science fair project this year. A few had done a project in the past and come in second among all First Nations schools in the province. So, I will be ensuring that they participate again this year. I got a bit of a feel for who might be interested on Friday, so now I just need to get more details and push them.

In other news my neighbour next door asked me to do some DJing for him. He has a DJ business and knew that I had dabbled in it while I was in Newfoundland. I had a brief orientation this evening, and will be running the show for a group of kids in North Battleford next weekend. I’m kind of excited about that too because I really enjoyed doing it before. Not to mention there are not too many side jobs where you can get paid to stand there and play music all night. I basically went from having no job to having two jobs in a matter of two weeks. J

I know I have not mentioned him in a while, but James has been doing better these last few weeks. Now that his medications are all on par where they should be and he has not missed any doses he has been seizure-free for a little over two weeks. We are still waiting on information from the hospital regarding the dates for surgery, but for now the meds are keeping things under control.

Well, it is getting late. I should go and get some shut-eye. More updates soon.

Cheers.


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Things are finally starting to go my way.

 

Things are finally starting to go my way. It has been a long time coming, but this is been a good week. I had a job interview on Tuesday for a position that I was hoping to hear back from. Within 20 minutes after the interview I was offered a job. I am the new math science teacher Chief Little Pine School. It is a First Nations school about 20 minutes from home, here in Cut Knife. I have already gone into the school a couple of times to meet with the teacher and replacing, and will be meeting with her again at the school on Sunday. This will give me an opportunity to pick up where she laughed off when I resume teaching on Tuesday. Monday is a P.D. day so the teachers will all be in North Battleford for meetings, and I have been asked to go to school instead to get things organized.

I am very excited to be starting and eager to get back into a high school classroom. The courses are arranged in trimesters instead of two semesters, so there will be some course changes throughout the year. This position is perfect, senior high sciences, math and information processing (a tech course).

I am going to spread my wings into some more inquiry in my science courses and be looking into ways to incorporate inquiry into my math classes too. I think it will make things more interesting. I have time to figure this out though, because the math all starts in November.

For the last few months I have been trying to figure out how to go about purchasing this house that I am currently living in. The problem was my lack of employment, so I was unable to take care of business during the summer. As of today I have been pre-approved for the mortgage. So, now I am another step closer. The landlord and the realtor now just need to draft up their contracts and hopefully we’ll be on the way.

The house is a simple place, with a big living room, kitchen and front room. There are two good sized bedrooms upstairs, even has a garage to keep the car in during the cold winters. There is some work that needs to be done, but for the most part these are minor things that do not hurt the habitability of the house, and are not pressing before winter.

Fingers are crossed that things will go my way for a change and the house will be mine. I am really tired of things not going my way when I want them to. I don’t ask for much, do I?

Anyway, on that note, further updates on the new job will come next week after I have had a chance to teach a few classes.


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Life challenges

Since I graduated from Memorial University in 2005 I have been receiving the annual Monday eMemo from one of my professors. Each winter he has a weekly newsletter that he emails out during the semester that most students are doing their internships (student-teaching). It allows those new teachers who are learning the profession to share their experiences and get some advice from the professor. This year he has asked for stories and experiences from former students who are now off teaching. I decided to be the first teacher to reply back. This is what I had submitted to tell my story and give my advice, as printed in the Monday eMemo from January 20, 2014:

On another note of challenges, I am in the process of trying to get all of my thoughts together for a new unit of Science 9. I am co-teaching a unit on space and the universe. So far it is coming together nicely, but there is still so much work to be done though. Unlike the grade 8 class last semester, the grade 9’s need a little more guidance to keep focused and on task, so we need to design the inquiry project in such a way that the kids do the work, but they find only the specific information we want them to. Several of these students are easily frustrate, so we need to break it down into manageable chunks. Herein lays the problem. There are a lot of chunks. But, it will be a creative masterpiece once I am finished putting it all together.

Also, just as soon as I get a chance and can keep my eyes open, I will be posting all of my inquiry units online at www.scottoosterom.ca. I really just have not had the time or alertness levels to get that done. Hopefully this will happen soon.

Still more challenges, James is not doing so well. Physically he is fine, but his brain is failing him it seems. There is some serious memory loss, in particular recent memory. I’ve done some research, and since the doctor tells me that the issue is in his right frontal lobe (top, front-ish on the right hand side above and behind the eye for those who don’t know); this means that there’s a lot of key features not working correctly, all of which are affecting his personality.

Right now, talking to him is in some ways like talking to a zombie; you get some answers, but not very well structured. This lobe is responsible for longer-term memory, not including tasks (or remembering how to do things). His immediate memory seems okay-ish but longer term is not working correctly. He Nan and I have been drilling him with questions to poke around at his memory. I don’t know how much good it is doing. Sometimes it is hard to tell if he actually remembers something or if it is a lucky guess.

Also, the prefrontal cortex (right above the right eye) is responsible for cravings, desire and willpower. Since last week James has not had a smoke (yay!) but his total lack of craving is most likely linked to insufficient activity in the prefrontal cortex. Even though I did tell him last weekend before we went into the hospital “no more smokes from here on in” I did expect him to ask for one as soon as we got out a week later. No sir! Been home since Saturday night, and he says he doesn’t even have an interest in a smoke, and I have been asking just to make sure, because I am actually quite shocked. Now, this is not to say he won’t be smoking next month, because who knows, but could something good have come from the seizures? Perhaps… perhaps…

In any event, I made a phone call to the epilepsy specialist yesterday, and much to my surprise the hospital paged me directly to him and not to a voicemail system. (Nice!) I told him about all the memory issues and personality changes that were not evident on Saturday when we left the hospital. He says they should clear up, but it might be weeks or months, or in some cases not all. Well I hope the smoking thing does not come back, but the rest would be good. Anyway, everything the doctor says points nearly to the exactly location in his brain that is affected by the seizures. He said we should be getting a phone call by Friday or Monday about the possibility of surgery; he is having the conference on Thursday with the other two specialists. He’s asked me to keep track of James’ memory situation and contact him if it gets worse, otherwise he will get another update when he contacts me.

I just cannot get over the system here. I spent over a year trying to get things situated in Newfoundland to get this very procedure done – to find the root cause of, and hopefully treat, the seizures. I just phones St. John’s and cancelled his EEG observation appointment because he will not need it in July. Everything here is going smoothly, and the ball is rolling. Plus we have access to a family physician who insists on regular visits so that he can be in the loop and aware of everything that is going on, and the specialist who cares enough about his patients to take personal calls in the middle of the shift to answer questions. I realize the family doctor cannot do much for the epilepsy as such, but I think it is important that all doctors involved in the patient’s care regiment should be aware of everything. It could be just me, but I think that’s who the medical system should work.

Anyways, I have rambled on enough now for one night. Good night.


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The moment has arrived

The time has arrived; James had to go into the hospital tomorrow for his telemetry. He’ll be hooked up to the EEG monitor and under video surveillance for 5 days. Hopefully they will do something about his medications so that he does not need $700 worth every month. He was in for an MRI scan on Wednesday gone by, so now they just have to do their medicine and figure out what’s causing the seizures. I’ve got to be honest; I was looking forward to a nice week of peace and quiet with no video games off in the distance. It will be nice to have this clean house stay that way for longer than a day.

Clean house aside; after I got home last night it was eerily quiet. Isaac is good company and all, but he is the strong silent type and does not say too much. He just kind of lies around and the follows me around whenever I move.

I spoke with James this evening, and he’s had several seizures since he was rigged up to the EEG and taken off his meds. This is a plus because this is the first time that a doctor has seen him seizure in a long time. Before today, they were taking my word on the seizures, and in some cases (it seemed) not even believing that they even existed. We are hopeful that this week will bring about some change.

I realize it has been a while since I last wrote a post, but it has been a very busy last few weeks. At work I have been trying to get grade 12 courses finished before the end of the semester. The pressure has been on to get them finished, get my exams made, and all the while get all my correcting done and entered into the computer. Junior high classes need to be submitted by Friday, the rest by next week, but it has been a chore to get caught up. I am almost there.

In other work-related news, I will be co-teaching a unit in my gr. 9 science with the principal. While the motive behind it is related to parents complaints that I apparently do not help their kids in class (which I find quite strange since it is not true), I do look forward to this unit. The principal is not convinced the students are right, since she has seen me helping students all the time, even during lunch breaks. It is all good though, I’ve never co-taught before, and this will be a fun inquiry unit on space and the universe to do this with. Since we talked last week, I have been in the process of planning the inquiry unit. I am excited about this, actually.

I know this is short and sweet, but I have to get some more correcting finished before I go to bed. I will have a longer post later in the week or on the weekend. I should be nearly done all the work by then. I should know more about James too.

A teacher’s work is never done. Good night.


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Teacher moments, seizures and doctor’s appointments…

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.


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Two weeks in…

 

Well, it has been two full weeks of school so far, and everything seems to be settling fine… slowly but surely. It has been especially busy because the courses are new to me and I have had to be extra diligent to ensure that I am not missing anything and that I have lessons perfectly planned. While content is similar to what I have been teaching before, the order of the material is very different. That said, I am thoroughly enjoying this whole work thing. I love what I do, and I am doing what I love, so it makes it so much easier to deal with a little extra stress.

Speaking of stress, I have been trying my damnedest to get all of my paperwork done for certification and payroll. I don’t remember having this much paperwork the first time I was added to payroll and got certified. Just when I thought I was all done the work, I received a phone call in the middle of class the other day from the school division office; they too want some of my paperwork.

It has been an interesting couple of weeks trying to get all of the kids’ names memorized; I’ve made a few small mistakes calling people by the wrong name. Fortunately the kids are pretty cool about things, and they just laugh it off. I should be good by the end of this week, I hope. Then again, maybe not, I have a day away from school on Thursday to attend a “new teacher” conference in one of the neighbouring towns.

James has been a little homesick lately. While he has been having a few small pseudoseizures, we seem to have the epileptic seizures under control. THANK GOD! We had had to deal with enough of those in August when we were travelling and he was running out of pills. That said, I would rather he is having a few small stress-related seizures any day; at least I know they are not going to be tiring him out too much and he can function fairly normally after they are done.

His homesickness is getting to be a little burdensome on me though. I totally understand that he misses Newfoundland and all the people he is used to being around whenever he wants to be, but there is really no need for him to take things out on me. We have been having little scraps here and there and typically over nothing, but he has been very quick to snap back at me, and it is frustrating. I keep reassuring him that it will get easier with time.

I spoke with the guidance counsellor the other day and he will be making regular visits with her each week. I seriously think he needs to do this again. It did wonders for him last semester when we were in Conne.

Homesickness aside, he has been making some friends here in this community as well as at school. Also, the school has transitioned him nicely into the flow of things, which is awesome. I truly believe this to be one of the huge benefits of a small rural school – teachers and students alike are more willing to make new people feel like part of the school community because it is a place where everyone knows everyone else. Students know teachers, and teachers know students. It is very welcoming.

Anyway, I must go. It is warm in this house right now and I need to step outside and get some air. So, until next time, Cheers!


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This week in… “Scott’s Head”

First off, I want to say “Good morning!” It has been a long time since I actually wrote a blog post after waking up. I generally only get thinking about what to write for a post late at night before I go to bed. It gives me something to do while I am waiting for James to fall asleep, to ensure that he is not going to have any seizures.

Since my last blog post there has been a lot going on that I feel the need to share and discuss.

Last Tuesday, while I was gone out for a couple hours for coffee, James did the unthinkable. He called his mother. For most of us this is a harmless endeavour that leaves us feeling good because we had a chance to talk to someone we love and hold very close to our hearts. Unfortunately, this is not the typical case for James. He has spoken to his mother only a handful of times since moving in with me in July. Each time he does, something happens in his mind leading to an increase in seizures, often for days afterwards. As such, his grandmother and I discourage him from talking to her as much as possible.

When I left that evening, he was happy-go-lucky and was his normal self, looking forward to an evening of video games with his buddy. I got home that night and James seemed “off” somehow. I knew something was up, but I was not sure what was going on. At first he was not too willing to talk about it, but I managed to get the info out of him. He expected me to get mad at him, but really what can I do? I was not amused, because I knew what was about to happen, but it is his mother, and so other than giving him the talk about why he should avoid her, there was nothing I could do; just sit and wait for seizures to begin. He mentioned to his Nan that he had made the call; she too discouraged him from making any future calls. The lies and the stress she causes him is not at all worth it. She tells him things, and sadly, he is just gullible enough to believe it. In his mind, I know he wants to believe everything she says, because he wants her to make right everything she had done to him in the past.

I don’t believe this is happening. Each of the four or five times that James has been in contact with his mom, it caused a great deal of stress and frustration leading to seizure activity. I would love nothing more than for him to have a good working relationship with his mom. After all, who wouldn’t want one? I love my mom, and I miss her greatly at times because I am far away doing what I have to do. The difference is, that when I get off the phone, I am not overcome with anger and frustration, and thinking about all the bad things that happened to me at her hand.

Anyway, it took a couple days, but by Thursday the seizures had set in. James ended up staying home from school because in a matter of hours he had about eight seizures. From what I have read, I can speculate that they were pseudoseizures, induced by stress, and therefore were related to his phone call a couple nights earlier. Pseudoseizures only occur when a person is awake, as James was because the alarms had gone off to get ready for school that morning. Plus, most of his seizures only occur at night while he is sleeping, and so they are not stress-induced.

Some of the seizures were doozies, and he was in them for several minutes at a time. He even got a little aggressive with me a couple times, and called me off when I was trying to give him his pills. He says he does not remember doing this, but apologized to me all the same.

That all said Friday was the beginning of a long weekend. There were no seizures at all. James’ Nan and sister came to stay with us for the entire weekend. It was a good visit. James got to spend some quality time with his Nan, who would never do anything to hurt him, and his sister who always has his back and looks out for his best interests. I have to give credit where it is due; his sister definitely has his best interests at heart, because James flipped his lid a couple times during the weekend, and every time, she went out the door after him to calm him down. His Nan is like the voice of reason, who is trying hard to help me steer him back in the right direction. Always convincing him to do the right thing and be responsible for his actions.

It for these reasons that I insist on making it possible for James to see his family as often as possible. He may be with me for now, but I have never once discouraged him from talking to his Nan and sister. In fact this is why I spend so much time bring him to Grand Falls to see them. I think that in his situation, where he living with a non-family member, that it gives him some grounding.

Anyway, now that the weekend is over, James has returned to normal. The melancholy feeling that came from coming home to an empty house after four days has passed. He has possibly had a couple small seizures in his sleep, but I am not sure. I was so exhausted after being “on” all weekend with company that I am not sure if he had one or not. I seem to recall that he had two yesterday morning, but the funny thing is, he doesn’t remember them. I could have sworn that I rolled him over onto his side in his sleep while he was having two seizures. He doesn’t remember such an event, which in itself is funny. Strangely, I woke up yesterday morning when the alarm went off, and I recall the most vivid dream ever; I looked at the clock in the dream seeing that I had an hour before I had to get up. In reality it was time. I was so over-tired, I wonder if it is possible that I dreamt that he had seizures. Surely he would remember if I went in and rolled him over and spoke to him.

Oh well, it has been a good run. Either he’s only had 2 small seizures or no seizures since last Thursday afternoon. Not bad either way.

After a week of trying to get time, and trying to figure out what to say, I finally called my aunt back in Nova Scotia. It was a difficult thing for me to do. My uncle has cancer, so ultimately I know that there is only so much positivity that can come from that fact. As such, I was not sure what to say as I ran possible scenarios through my head. Finally I bit the bullet, and called. I knew I had to call, because even though I am not at home, and it seems at times that I don’t really care, I always have my family in mind. I was glad to hear from my aunt that even though he is not eating like he used to, he is trying hard to be positive. I understand that it would be difficult, but hope he can maintain it, because I believe strongly that with cancer or any other ailment, a positive mindset can go a long way to being happier and living longer.

On hindsight I am glad I called to see how things were going. My aunts and my grandmother were my inspiration to go into teaching, and I think it is important to keep inspiration close to heart as much as possible, especially in times of need and sickness. I am not normally much for prayer, but my thoughts and prayers are with my aunt and uncle and the family. I would love to hear that there is some medical breakthrough to help.

Speaking of teaching, my job-search continues. I have a few jobs applied for, and would love to hear back for one in particular, but who knows. Knowing my luck I will be stuck on employment insurance and have to figure out how to pay rent and make car and student loan payments. My fingers are crossed as sit back and wait for the phone to ring.

James and I went for a drive yesterday and came across Jeddore Lake. This picture below was taken from along the shore.

Figure 1. Jeddore Lake, located between St. Alban’s and St. Veronica’s Newfoundland. Picture taken on May 21, 2013 by Scott Oosterom.