Thoughts on how to deal with type 1 diabetes in teaching

In the teaching profession, diabetes has no legal obligation to inform the employer. The topic concerns the state of health and thus the privacy of a worker or an applicant. In connection with the following points, it is advisable to deal with this disease as openly as possible, especially because it enables so-called «win-win» situations.

  • In the long run, keeping the disease secret is difficult because diabetes therapy is very time-consuming and you, especially as a class teacher, spend a lot of time with your students. As a result, many strategies have to be developed and a lot of time has to be spent in order to carry out the therapy in secret. All in all, this is associated with a (too) high wear and tear.
  • The secrecy of the diabetes leads to the behavior of the teacher (such as mental confusion with hypoglycaemia or eating during the classes) to unnecessary misunderstandings, which can be very important.
  • After employment (never before!) On one school a discussion with the school management should be sought as soon as possible in order to inform them thoroughly about their own diabetes. Special attention should be paid to the topic of “hypoglycemia”. The school administration must know the cause, the danger and the correct reaction to hypoglycaemia. The same procedure is recommended for those teachers with whom there is close cooperation.
  • Your extended diabetes can be opened up to the extended college by initially not following the path of least resistance and deliberately not taking any therapeutic measures in hidden rooms or on the toilet. In other words, blood sugar can be measured in the teacher’s room and the insulin syringe or pump can be placed at the dining table during lunch. There is no need for a specific information event for the other work colleagues, here the motto is: Anyone who is interested in it is welcome to ask!
  • In connection with the last two points, it should be borne in mind that the illness appears so self-evident to you, that many people with type 1 diabetes can initially do little and that their knowledge is limited to half-knowledge and prejudices.
  • It is advisable not to open diabetes to students in their own class on the first day of school. But after an initial phase of getting to know each other and, very importantly, after a first mutual trust has been built up. The exact time for this step must be estimated individually, but as a rule of thumb, the second or third week of school makes sense.
  • Communication of the diabetes disease in front of your own pupils should be detailed and should be supported visually. The therapy measures can be demonstrated demonstratively and thus explained in an understandable manner. The pupils must understand why it is important and correct for the teacher that they can take the necessary measures for good blood sugar control even during the lesson. Afterwards, the students should be given enough time for questions and descriptions of personal experiences with diabetes.
  • When it comes to hypoglycemia, special attention should be paid to the symptoms and the necessary immediate measures are taken. Visualizations can have a supporting effect here. In addition, the pupils must be made aware of the fact that the teacher needs a few minutes to recover from hypoglycaemia before the class can continue as usual.
  • The pupils can very well be involved as helpers in connection with hypoglycaemia by understanding that outsiders can often recognize the signs of hypoglycaemia in front of the affected diabetic.
  • The teacher’s type 1 diabetes should be recorded as a fixed item on the first parents’ evening. This gives the parents of the students the opportunity to ask questions. The pupils may have been informed inaccurately, incorrectly or hardly by the pupils.
  • On school trips and events (especially with increased physical activity) that take place outside the school building and break through the usual routine, it makes sense to take enough companions with you. In addition, the accompanying persons should be well informed about diabetes and the course of the excursion, so that responsibility can be handed over in difficult situations.
  • Modern therapy options help to improve diabetes attitudes and to react more flexibly to exceptional situations (such as a strict hike in warm temperatures on a school trip). An insulin pump is superior to conventional insulin syringes with basic / bolus insulin. In phases of difficult blood sugar adjustment, continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) offers a certain level of security and provides valuable additional information.
  • An open approach to type 1 diabetes can be a positive as well as valuable role model for students who also suffer from a chronic illness.
  • If there are ongoing difficulties with diabetes therapy in everyday working life, it is advisable to seek a conversation with the school management on the one hand and with the experts on the other. This means that you first express your concerns to your diabetologist, who can possibly provide specialist psychological support.
  • In conclusion: Open dealing with type 1 diabetes in the teaching profession means that those affected disclose many intimate details and thus reveal a lot of their privacy. At the beginning this requires a lot of courage to overcome! However, those affected gain freedom and an understanding of difficult situations.


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Christina Cherry
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