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School teacher: telling the kids?

Hello, I have been diagnosed for about a year now. I am a secondary school maths teacher. Still work full time. I had a meeting with my occupational therapist this week and she suggested telling the children. They might not understand it all fully but she felt that they would react positively to it and help make my life easier in school. As you all probably know, teaching teenagers maths is not always the easiest thing to do. I believe I am still capable of doing it but I do struggle when the children make it more difficult through their negative attitudes and behaviours. That is usually to do with it being maths and not being me though (I Hope!) I am apprehensive about telling them as I don’t want it to be an excuse. For example, when a student doesn’t pass their GCSE, I don’t want people thinking it’s because their teacher had MS. Likewise, i dont want people thinking that it would be reason for their child to be underperforming at any stage of their school life. I have already said that I will be more than happy to resign as soon as i felt my illness was having a negative impact on my students learning. Has anyone been in a similar situation? Any advice? Thanks, David

Rather than tell the whole class I would tell just a couple of students to see what their reaction is and that could give you some sort of indication as to whether you want to tell other students.

My guess is they wont have much interest.

I wonder if krak has kids. Best way to tell the whole class is to tell a few!!

Question is, why would you? Is MS making a difference to how you teach Maths? Is it affecting your teaching at the moment?

Most kids will know someone who has a disability or illness, either in their family or circle of friends. They are more likely to have heard of Jack Osbourne or Amy Winehouse’s mom or the Paralympians who have MS. If it comes up, I’d say it okay to tell em. But I’m at a loss as to how to weave it casually into a math class!

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Hello David

Supposing you had a visible disability, or develop a symptom that becomes visible (limp, foot drop, too many others to list). Wouldn’t it make life easier if it was generally known before that happened?

Plus, in today’s inclusive education system, aren’t there some kids with disabilities? Isn’t it a good thing for children to see someone fully functioning with MS? And for it to be just a part of you?

Having said that, kids are cruel, nasty little beggars. So if you choose to ‘come out’ (so to speak) as a PWMS, then you are liable to hear the odd whispered mean thing or even some phrases that you’d have to challenge. But once it’s out, that’s it, you can’t take it back.

By the way, I’m not a teacher and neither do I have children, so this is just an opinion.

Sue

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Thank you for your replies. Really good to hear your thoughts. I think i will just tell the year 11s and see how they react.

David,

I cannot advise you over telling your students, but your penultimate paragraph is a little unnerving.

Do not resign on health grounds. I am sure that you are aware that your employer has to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ by law to accommodate your condition. You may not be there yet but you could consider reducing your hours, or shedding some responsibilities, if or when the time comes. It may help to keep you alert and reduce any fatigue that you may suffer. From your post, I am assuming that you are not near to retirement and that you are keen to continue with your career.

I have been a teacher and I am fully aware that no-one is able to do the job in the 35 hours per week in the contract. I wasn’t a teacher when I took early medical retirement so I was not in the situation in which you find yourself.

Best of luck with your decision and I hope that you are able to teach for as long as you have the desire to do so.

Alun

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I see no reason why you should tell the children but its entirely up to you. The fact its a suggestion from someone else rather than a strong urge from yourself i would be inclined to not do it,at least until you are absolutely certain you want too. I 100% agree more importantly with Alun, the Equality act is there to offer protection if your condition was to get to the stage where you need to change things.As a teacher and unlike many others now days, i am pretty sure you are in a union? and suggest you consult them for advise regarding this. good luck Ollie

Dear David,

I am a head of department, secondary. Recently diagnosed and currently signed off because of symptoms.

I understand your predicament, however, I am not certain that students need to know? Teenagers are wonderful, hedonistic, busy and selfish and I am not sure that telling them would make things easier? And before taking this step I would consider thinking about yourself first.

Maybe you are acknowledging that things are becoming more difficult. As a disabled worker your employer needs to put things in place to help you. Less report writing (cognitive issues means that I struggle here), less classroom interruptions (even the phone ringing halts my teaching flow), travel assistance, rest space (time and place) etc…I am certain that you can think of more! Legally your headteacher is not allowed to suggest that you go part time and it would upset your pension to do so.

Talk to your GP, HR, Occ Health and most importantly your teaching Union because if you are struggling they would be best placed to advise? Kindest thoughts Ali

Umm, I do not have a clear thought on what I ‘think you should do’. Ok, I have ms & expect others to acept it. But… I am also dislexic & expect others to except it. But, I could not become a teacher because I am dislexic ’ you have to pass a computerised English test’ I would not have passed. Lol, anyone who reads my posts would recognise that. Ps. I have a gcse in English language.

Ok so part of my point is, ‘disabilities’ are not always supported within education.

The other point I have been thinking about is ‘if you were my child’s teacher’. !!!

ok so my conclusion, why do you feel you want /need to tell them ? Is their a reason like they May mistakenly think you are drunk in the afternoon because you are not walking in a straight line ?

teenagers are designed to be self centred! Ms is a really really complicated thing. Can you explain what it is & what it means in a way that those youngsters who really care ( kids get very very emotionally attached to teachers even if they don’t show it) and the other sort of kids don’t use it as an excuse to play up.

Sosorry to be saying this, it probably sounds really harsh. What is stuck in my mind is every time my kids had any teachers with ‘issues’ they got cross. (Both kids now at Russell group unis)

hiya

difficult one! and you will either get it wrong or right! the general public are ignorant about ms so a select portion will be the same i guess?

i would make a decision on how able that you are to deal with your situation and take it from there. right now i would be tempted to tell no-one but that makes a huge difference to protection by the disability act. once its out there-even in confidence to employer it gets out there sadly these days so maybe you prefer to be calling the shots?

i dunno! i never had that choice to make…good luck!

ellie