Saturday, January 16, 2010

Teaching with P.O.T.S.

Teaching with P.O.T.S. (Postural, Orthostatic, Tachycardia, Syndrom) has been a unique experience as well a a positive one. Working with this group of amazing students has been a blessing, and the curse of having dysautonomia has been a growing and positive experience as well.

Prayer in the Classroom

Teaching has it's challenges, add working without an aide or any parent volunteers can make things a bit harder, but if you combine teaching with having POTS, it can be a double whammy.

One morning, I was feeling dizzy and out of breath from counting to 100 with the students, and they had become very chatty, and a bit rude. I didn't have enough oxygen or strength to get the children's attention, so I sat down and closed my eyes. Being a Christian I also said a short prayer (silent). Immediately the class became silent, I believe an answer to prayer of course, so I thanked God for His answer, and opened my eyes. The students were sitting perfectly and silently, and I gave them a big smile. One of the students asked me "What were you doing doing Mrs. McGough?", not wanting to cross a fuzzy line of school ethics, I asked him, "What do you think I was doing?" He replied, "resting", another student said, "no, I think she was praying". I smiled, confirming the second child's answer. The first child asked, "What were you praying for?" again I replied, "What do you think?" he answered, "that we would be good". I smiled again, thinking God had truly answered prayer that morning. I then had the strength and the attention I needed from my students to teach the next lesson.

My lesson: Prayer does work in my classroom.

The ice vest

One of my students went to the office wearing a very cute headband she had made in class with ears attached to a fan folded strip of paper. The secretary, who knew my class was learning about ears and hearing for our five senses lesson, asked the student what she was learning with her ears today. The students response was "We learned that Mrs. McGough was wearing her ice vest so we couldn't go on our listening walk, so we just sat." The secretary asked, "So you didn't hear anything today?" The student replied, "We heard lots of stuff, we just couldn't walk and listen." This student was obviously more focused on my ice vest then on the lesson, but it did give quite a few of us a good chuckle.

Lesson # 1: The listening activity was actually better without the distraction of walking, I would not have known that if I hadn't been struggling with heat intolerance that day.

Lesson # 2: Wearing an ice vest usually accompanies more hugs than usual, I often have to pry a student away, who is using my vest to cool themselves off.

Little Helpers

It's common for teachers to encourage students to help with different classroom jobs in the classroom. Typical jobs would include line leader, door monitor and librarian. Since my POTS diagnosis, getting up and down can be a bit exhausting, but I usually just pushed through the tasks. One day I asked a student if they would mind turning on the air conditioning for me because I felt a bit dizzy, he responded with a smile and asked me if he could be my "air conditioning guy". Well that day prompted other students requesting to do odd jobs, and the number of jobs has stretched a bit to include;

  • Tissue monitor, this student insists on getting me a tissue every time I sniffle.

  • Baby wipe monitor, this students gets me a baby wipe at any sign of messy hands.

  • Heater monitor, this student turns on and off the heater as needed.

  • Sanitation monitors, these students are in charge of keeping the floor litter free.

  • Lost object finder, when ever I misplace an item this student searches for it. Wish I had one of these at home.

  • Dropped object picker upper, since bending over is a problem, it's great to have someone pick things up for me.

I could go on, but you get the picture. Each of these jobs was student generated, and teacher appreciated. The students are learning about helping others and taking pride in a job well done.

My lesson: It's ok to ask for help, even from a five year old, it makes them feel needed and important.

I realize I'm very fortunate to be able to work and have POTS. Many of my friends with dysautonomia can't, which has given me an appreciation for every day that I can work. I walk into my classroom every day aware that this could be the last year I'm able to work. Working each day as if it could be your last definately changes your attitude. I have never enjoyed working as much as I do this year.

Always inspired, and grateful to work,



  1. Michele,
    This is exceptional. I never would have known you had such an exceptional voice. Perhaps, Fitzgerald was right: Don't write because you want to say something; rather, write because you have something to say. I'm sure you are an inspiration to many. You are to me.

  2. thank you for sharing!
    i am a first grade teacher with POTS.
    i often think my kids know what i need before i get a chance to ask for help. they can be so amazing!