Stylin’ (and a Recipe to Boot)

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Have you been to diabetes self-management education? Did you come out with your head spinning, wondering what language the educator was speaking? Were you frustrated that others seemed to understand that language?

Maybe it was a difference in learning styles.

That was driven home to me Sunday when my granddaughter put the fixin’s for Italian beef together while I was getting ready for us to go out.

“There’s a roast in the refrigerator,” I told her. “Rinse it off, put it in the Crock-Pot, pour the juice from the jar of peperoncini over it, throw in a few peppers, put the lid on the pot, and turn it on.”

When we arrived back home, I looked at the jar of peperoncini sitting on the counter. It was missing maybe one inch of juice.

“But you didn’t tell me how much!” she exclaimed as I dumped the rest of the juice into the pot.

I thought “pour the juice from the jar…over it” said it all. Apparently not. I must explore that child’s learning style, especially since she wants us to make a book of family recipes. Obviously, 18 years of interacting with her hasn’t been long enough. (And what does that say about MY learning style?)

No amount of demonstrating or instructions could get my former sister-in-law to learn to swim. How did she finally do it? She read a book.

Some things I learn by doing while somebody guides me — such as doing something new on a computer. Or swimming. When it comes to retention, I need words on a page. I’ve been struggling with trying to make sense of something when all I have is a Web cast.

My grandson just needs to be left alone to go at his own pace. Which is fast. He was the world’s worst student, grade-wise, when he had to sit in a class full of students going at the same pace. When they put him in a room with a computer, he finished an entire class in less than two days. Got a B+. (Imagine what he could have done if he’d taken a full two days!)

Some people, such as those who aren’t yet up on their English or who are hearing-impaired, may need pictures to help them understand.

My first CDE talked to me, gave me examples, showed me the product packaging when applicable, then gave me articles on the subjects. So I had a chance to ask questions, heard about some real-life experiences, got to see (and touch) a product so I’d know what to look for at the store, and then something to refer back to later.

When I was told I was going to learn how to calculate insulin on board — that is, determining how much insulin is still working so that amount can be subtracted from what you’re about to give yourself — I cringed. I greatly dislike committing math. I whined that it was too hard: I couldn’t do it. “If you can’t do it this way,” my teacher said, “we’ll try another way. If that doesn’t work, we’ll try another way.” Yada, yada, yada. Well, I learned, but always had to refer back to my “cheat sheet.” Now, I’m happy that my insulin pump does the calculations for me. However, if the pump malfunctions, I know where my cheat sheet is. I think. I have a memory like a sieve.

I’ll admit I did — and do — have the luxury of one-on-one education. Many get their education in classes. The advantage of one-on-one is that you can go at your own pace and ask questions that are pertinent to you. The advantage of a class is that other people probably will ask questions that may not have occurred to you.

If you don’t understand what is being said, please tell the educator. Know what your learning style is and request information presented in a way that you understand. The educator won’t mind. He or she knows that diabetes self-management education is vitally important if you’re to fit diabetes into your life and if you’re to reduce your risk of complications.

And if the educator won’t honor your request, or can’t teach you in a way that you understand, request a new one. Diabetes is for the rest of your life and you should be able to deal with it without being needlessly frustrated. Face it: Diabetes itself can be frustrating enough!

If you’re unfamiliar with Italian beef, it’s a sandwich filling. I like it open-faced on a piece of ciabatta, but most eat it on a hoagie roll. I use a chuck roast and, as you know, ALL of the liquid in a jar of peperoncini. Cook it all day in a Crock-Pot, remove the visible fat, and shred the meat with a fork.

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