A History Teacher's Approach to Continuing Education for Personal Health

A History Teacher's Approach to Continuing Education for Personal Health

It’s still back-to-school season, which means back to learning is just as much in full swing. Like we’ve talked about before, for those of us with diabetes or any kind of chronic condition continued education is the key to success.

Some might say continuing education as it pertains to the job is something of a misnomer. Continuing education for one’s health, however, is something we should all practice, whether we have a chronic condition or not. The human body is constantly changing; it’s not just every 7 years like you may have heard, but every few days or even seconds.

A constantly changing, ever-evolving landscape requires continued learning about our personal health.

Applying Critical Thinking to Personal Health

Terrell is a lifelong educator. He’s been teaching middle school students for over 33 years and has no plans of stopping anytime soon.

But his type 2 diabetes diagnosis in 2009 did give him pause.

“I was terrified. And not just terrified, but mortified. Diabetes runs all over my family, but I never thought I’d actually get it. The day I went in to get my annual was just like any other day; it changed my life forever.

"For the rest of that year, I debated whether or not I could still do my job. I was trying to do all of the right things, but kept falling short. So then it was like, well how can I teach these kids of mine if I can’t even teach myself?”

At that point, Terrell had 22 years of teaching experience under his belt and couldn’t imagine a life without his students. Every morning he looked forward to that a-ha! moment one of his kids would have that day.

Which is precisely what spurred Terrell’s curiosity to learn more about his own health.

“Something clicked one night after work. I had been toying with the idea of leaving my school, thinking I wasn’t up for the job anymore with all the problems I was having with my sugars.

"But I had this moment of gratitude, reflecting on what I’d been blessed to experience up to that point in my career.

"I realized, my kids would have these moments in class where they finally 'got it.' You know, where they’d been confused, not really even interested, and then I’d see the lightbulb go off.

"And I thought to myself, why don’t I take a lesson from them? I need to be more educated about my health, to engage more, to learn more. That was it for me.”

Admittedly, Terrell hadn’t done much more exploration about diabetes beyond what his doctor told him upon diagnosis. Like many of us, he went through the motions: the yearly doctor appointment, the blood work, and the suggested changes to his regimen.

Beyond the doctor’s office, Terrell wasn’t taking a critical look at his health and forming questions or actively seeking answers. 

“I’d been pretty healthy (or so I thought) up until my mid-20s. I played football in high school and was still relatively fit through college. So I never really worried. Health wasn’t something I ever considered. I just thought, you go get your check-up and check it off the list.

"Once I had my own a-ha! moment about my health, that all changed.”

Never Stop Learning, Never Give Up

While he may have shown up later on his health path, Terrell showed up. He started doing his own research, digging in to not just what was currently available but what the past could also teach him about diabetes management.

“I’m a history teacher, so learning from someone else’s past experience is what I teach in my classroom. I took those teachings and simply applied them to my own life.

"What was diabetes? Where did it all begin? What had others before me done to manage? What hadn’t they done? What could I take from their personal stories and apply to my own diabetes journey?”

Terrell learned early on in his research that diabetes has been around for quite a long time; that many people throughout the years (even the Egyptians) found success using low carb; that diet is a driving force in diabetes success stories; that the more blood sugar data he could collect on himself, the more able Terrell would be to make lasting, positive change for himself.

Terrell decided early on that he was going to check his blood sugar more often than this doctor suggested. By doing so, he saw trends immediately: that his blood sugar spiked long after eating rice, beans, and Texas toast and that brisk walks in his free periods caused his blood sugar to drop.

The more data he had, the better Terrell became at understanding what worked and what didn’t for his lifestyle.

He continues searching for as many stories as he can find about others’ tips, tricks, successes, and failures. For Terrell, learning about his diabetes is a lifelong educational journey.

“I tell my kids at the start of each school year, the most important thing is that you never give up. You keep trudging ahead and eventually, you will get it.

"Now, I live by my own mantra. I never stop learning. I never give up.”

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Mary Elizabeth Adams
Sep 23, 2020

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