As professional educators, the volume of professional development (PD) that we can receive to enhance our practice is endless. There’s so much out there to learn toward making us all great at what we do. And when we take full advantage of all we can consume, our students are the ones who come out on top.
One topic that is not a typical PD workshop topic is “Diet and Exercise.” Certainly, when I was a classroom teacher, had I been sent to workshop on diet and exercise, I am sure I would have gotten a good nap in that day. I taught when I was in my late 20s through my late 30s. The furthest thing from my mind in those days was “diet and exercise.” I was too busy trying to be great in the classroom. Why would I need to spend an hour or more learning about taking care of my heath? In my mind, I was the picture of good health….although I ate fast food 5 – 6 days per week…hmm.
In my late 30s, I became a principal. This meant I slept less now and ate a whole lot more fast food. As a new principal, I was putting in a 12 – 14 hour day daily. On my way to work in the wee hours of the morning, I would stop at a fast food drive through window and order breakfast. For lunch which typically was at about 4:00 p.m., I would ask someone to bring me some fast food for lunch. On my way home late at night, I would stop through the fast food drive though for something to hold me over until I got home for a late dinner. Then I would start the process all over the next day. This went on for fourteen years as a principal, but in my mind, I was feeling great and in the best of shape. Little did I know, a life-threatening crisis was waiting for me right around the corner.
When I became an education consultant in 2015, my fast food diet intensified because now, I was on airplanes every night all night and all I had time to eat was fast food…so I thought. Midnight - 2:00 a.m. fast food dinners and then sleep 3 hours and start it all over the next day. Again, in my mind, I’m fine. Nothing will ever happen to me. Then on May 1, 2015, I reached “that corner.” In the middle of a keynote address at the University of Miami…BAM!!! A massive heart attack….right on the stage in front of an audience of 200 Miami administrators! MY main artery…the LAD, was clogged 100%! The fast food and the sodas (about 6 sodas per day) caught up to me and almost did me in. To make a very long story short, I almost lost my life on that stage. I ate fast food two hours before the presentation! I thought I was invincible. I’m talking to someone out there!
An ambulance was called and I was rushed to the hospital, with my audience watching in disbelief. The surgeon got a stent in my artery in the nick of time. You should have heard me yelling and screaming…thought I was going to die. After the surgery, the doctor informed me that Type II diabetes accompanied the heart attack….OMG!!! He said I had to change my lifestyle now. No more fast food, fried food, sodas, etc. Trust me, he didn’t have to tell me twice! I went cold turkey and hit the treadmill and exercise bike in every hotel I stayed in which I continue to do to this day. I lost 40 pounds in 4 months without even trying. I just did what I was told to do…eat right and exercise.
Hey teacher out there…hey administrator out there…hey support staff member out there…put that burger, fries and soda DOWN! It’s not healthy. Take it from me. I thought I was a machine. I thought heart attacks happen to other people….not me! Well I learned the hard way and I’m now sharing it with you. My focus was on the work…I repeat…MY FOCUS WAS ON THE WORK…THE CHILDREN. I didn’t give my health a second thought. I know there is someone reading this blog post who is in the same predicament I was in. I know you are out there. I am encouraging you to heed my advice…my warning and STOP!
I take good care of myself now. No insulin or any diabetes meds required. I manage it through diet and exercise. I still work hard and I’m still on the road often. I’m typing this blog post on a plane in fact. But I eat right. I exercise for about 40 minutes daily. I am encouraging you to do the same. Don’t tell me you don’t have time. Like the doctor said to me, MAKE THE TIME! It boils down to prioritizing, commitment and time management. You are of no use to your students if you are either laying up in a hospital recovering from a crisis that you had control over…or worse!…yeah, I said it. I want to make you feel uncomfortable with your bad health habits if applicable. Your students need you healthy so if I’m talking to you, let’s get it together. Enough said. #bam.