3 Ways the R-word Impacts Others

“That’s so retarded!”

“Why are you acting like that? You look retarded.”

“Oh my gosh. I felt so embarrassed. I felt like a retard.”

These are just a few examples I’ve heard recently using the r-word both from middle school students and adults alike. As an educator, I tell my students not to use this word. But their reasoning is just “Mrs. Gideon doesn’t like that word.” I need to do a better job of explaining the impact of the r-word. So here are three ways the r-word has an impact on others when you say it, or allow others to say it.

  • It offends people with disabilities, their families, and their friends. 

I’m a special education teacher. Students with disabilities are kinda my thing, you know? I have interacted with their parents, their loved ones, and others who have a role in their lives. Using the r-word, even when referring to a situation or someone else, is hurtful! People with disabilities have a long history of being marginalized in our society. The r-word is used often to describe something inferior, stupid, or less. This is one of the reasons why the r-word IS a big deal. Even if you address a thing an action, you are loading your words with the history of people with special needs in the United States. It takes just a few seconds to think of someone you know or love with a disability – would you want them to be viewed as less or inferior?

  • It excludes people from everyday, normal life.

The r-word can effectively exclude people with intellectual or physical disabilities. It has become so normal to use this word, that when I did a quick Google search, “retarded” had a second definition: an informal offense. I got pretty angry when I saw this, to be honest. It gave me the impression that when you look up this word in the dictionary, it is okay to say it because it’s just an informal offense. I fear that many will rationalize their use of the word with this mentality.

 Use of the r-word limits the potential of people with disabilities. The idea is that because someone has a disability, they cannot do something. Guess what? I’ve seen people with disabilities accomplish more than some of their neurotypical peers, and even become more productive members of society. The Christian in me believes we were all created in God’s image and there are no people who are here by accident. That is my driving reason to be inclusive. There is no good reason to exclude people with disabilities. We should be lifting up others with physical or mental differences. As Larry Bell, a great speaker and former teacher says, “Different does not mean dumb!”

  • The r-word indicates a lack of empathy.

Empathy is often a buzzword, especially in education. It is a necessary component of human interaction. I could not do my job effectively without a healthy amount of empathy. For me, I’ve always had a natural ability to put myself in the shoes of others. I had a hard time coming to terms with the idea that not everyone thinks this way or even knows where to begin. As adults, as educators, as parents, we must instill empathy in our children. To me, a lack of empathy is what makes the r-word okay. But it’s not. We should not be okay with hurting others. I also feel that I need to do a better job of weaving empathy into my teaching so that it is modeled effectively for students to understand.

 

I’ve thought a lot about this recently. Since I’m in a middle school, I hear it a lot. So I felt that if I hear it a lot, isn’t that an opportunity to educate and advocate? It should be. I’ll be thinking of ways to make an impact in my school and community, and drive others to be inclusive of our friends with disabilities. If you have suggestions, leave them in the comments!

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My One Word for 2017

This year, I am trying out a new way to be reminded of my goals and what I’d like to do with my time and energy. The idea behind a One Word for the year is to choose a word that will guide you through the year and its different moments and opportunities.

I do believe in making resolutions, but I think the one word philosophy is a great way to have a simple reminder of what I set out to do.  

So… here’s my word for 2017:

feb-17-sunday

Here’s why I chose ready: I set three goals for this year before I remembered about the one word thing. I didn’t want to abandon these goals, because that would be silly. But narrowing down to one word made sense because its a quick and easy reminder of how to take steps to meet these goals. 

  •  I want to run a half marathon in under 3 hours. (My last time was 3:03)
  •  I want to lose weight by staying on track with weight watchers.
  •  I want to spend more time focused on my relationships with others. 

After I thought about these goals, I realized that each of these goals require a significant amount of preparation. In order to train for the half marathon, I have to be ready for the days I don’t feel like running, potential injuries, and any number of weather-related variables. To lose weight, I have to prepare in advance when possible by planning meals, make better choices about snacks, and balance food choices to stay on plan. For stronger relationships, I have to focus on how to be ready to set time aside for others and focus on making people a priority versus tasks. That means planning for days when I can’t work while at home (yay!) and setting aside time for people I care about. Ready just seemed to fit with all of the things I hope to achieve this year. 

So how did my first week of READY go?

Good, but there is definitely room for improvement. Ready is not my natural aptitude.

What I noticed: I am a notorious procrastinator, I rush around the house in the morning getting the day started, and I scramble to find things when I need them most. 

What I’m choosing to focus on: Getting out of bed earlier in the mornings and making sure things are packed and good to go the night before I need them. Both of these things will hopefully cut down on my frantic race around the house.

2016 was hard. My hope for READY is that it will make 2017 not so hard and it will allow me to work on meeting my goals and make time for what is most important to me. How are you making the most of this new year? Only 51 weeks remain! 😉

Changes!

This year has gotten away from me. From a personal standpoint, my life has completely changed! Often in a good way, sometimes not so much.

Biggest change? This guy.

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Me and APG in the Rocky Mountains.

APG joined our family on January 10th! He was born on the 8th of January, and we flew to Florida to meet and adopt him. Our adoption was finalized the last week of April! We are so in love with him and he makes life fun. It has been hard to adjust to a new lifestyle, honestly, but it is definitely worth it. Our adoption headaches, frustration, and waiting were 100% necessary. We appreciate this boy so much! It’s hard to believe we’ll be celebrating his first birthday in just a few months.

This year we’ve had brilliant, wonderful moments, but also crushing, difficult low points. As a family, we lost two special family members – my father in law, and my grandfather. I miss them all the time. Especially in moments where APG does something we could share with them. As time goes on, the grief eases somewhat. The adjustment is just very slow.

My professional life has changed a bit too. I’ve moved up grade levels – I’m now teaching 8th grade with two fantastic co-teachers. I was super hesitant about this change (mostly because I’ve never taught the same thing two years in a row… partially my fault.) but it was definitely the move I needed to make. I have a great group of students, too. They are full of personality and keep the days interesting.

So from here on out, I’m hoping to jump back in to the blogging thing. Writing is something I enjoy, so I need to carve out time to do it. The perfectionist in me struggles with picking up something I abandoned and just moving forward, but it’s something I need to do. The focus of the blog will still include personal moments, especially with regard to my health and fitness journey (Hello, accountability!). I also hope to intertwine education, parenting (because that’s one of my things now), and whatever else pops up along the way.

2016 Mission

Gosh, it’s been far too long since my last blog post. I entered a weird (good weird) season in life, and time got the best of me.

All the same, here we are in a new year! I’m thrilled to be in 2016 and to be able to reflect on the past year and look forward to the future.

As you might know, last year I did not make resolutions, per se, but I cultivated a mission. I refuse to use the term “mission statement,” because I think it’s cheesy. I still have a mission, though. My 2015 mission was to be the best version of myself. I set out on that mission by making small changes – things like going to church regularly, paying attention to food and exercise more carefully, and refusing to stress about work too much. I did well in some areas of this mission, and others need a little more attention. So going in to 2016, I had an idea for my new mission:

Be consistent. 

It seems simple enough, but this is where all of my goals go to die. Consistency is where I struggle the most. I admittedly get discouraged after about a week with things like exercise and eating well. These are the two areas I am really putting forth all of my effort right now. It is hard to say I’m going to be consistent, because my schedule is all crazy right now. But I really want to make this commitment to myself. I am entering my 30th year, and it hit me that basically a third of my life is complete. Entering this next third of life, I feel like I know who I am as a person. I just need to really focus on enhancing the areas of life that will give me the most benefit.

…that last part sounds a bit selfish. Really though, happy and healthy people are able to make a positive impact on others. That’s really all I want out of life: to help others and to be a positive force in the world. I can’t do those things if I am not healthy (mentally and physically). So the journey begins.

Here’s to a New Year and to new goals. Let’s crush them!

Honor Hunger Update: Week 1

Hey friends! It’s the end of my first week of “Honoring my Hunger” with Intuitive Eating. I’ve kept a food journal this week, so I spent this morning looking at how the week went and did a little reflection.

Things I’ve learned from this week:

  1. If I don’t eat by 8:00 am, I get reeeeeally hungry. Borderline hangry. This is no bueno.
  2. When I don’t drink enough water, I feel really gross. On Thursday, I had very little water. It resulted in headaches, stomach issues, and generally feeling icky.
  3. Having options available helps me make better food decisions for snacks.

Overall, I think it was really helpful to write down everything I ate. The reflection part was the deciding factor. I used to find food journals annoying, but I never did anything with what I wrote down. The reflection is what helps me plan for the upcoming week.

This is what my food journal looks like:IMG_0019

It is really nothing fancy. What I do is I write the time, what I’m eating, and my hunger on a scale of 1-10. Sometimes I’ll also write what I’m feeling emotionally when I eat. Generally, I didn’t hit a hunger level above a 5 (which is where you should eat) and I ate what I wanted when I wanted it! I feel good about how this week went and I’m hopeful I’ll see some improvement with the next week of journaling.

I also took a day off from journaling on Friday. I think it did me some good to step away from writing it all down. I tend to get obsessive about things so this was a good thing for me to take a break.

So, what am I doing with all of this information?

What I’ve decided to do with these reflections is to choose three points where I focus to make improvements. This week my three focus points are:

  1. Drinking more water every day. Weekends and busy days are when I seem to neglect hydration.
  2. Plan & Pack. Have snacks that are filling and healthy for after school ready and waiting.
  3. Eating breakfast every morning. (I sometimes skip breakfast on weekends if I sleep later.)

Alright. On the agenda is another week of Honor Your Hunger. Next up with Intuitive Eating, I’m focusing on principle #5 which is Respect Your Fullness. Happy week, friends!

Honor Your Hunger: My first step into Intuitive Eating

Everything in the title of this post seems like it would be easy. When I interpret “Honor your hunger,” I think eat when you’re hungry. Simple enough. Except when you eat all the things because stress, sadness, emotional numbing, etc. My ability to honor my hunger gets lost pretty quickly.

I’ve been seeing Michelle, a Registered Dietician, since June. She recommended the book Intuitive Eating a few weeks in to our sessions. I was reeeeally skeptical about this book. I’m just not into reading books that aren’t entertaining, and I really didn’t think I’d learn anything new, to be honest. I. WAS. WRONG. Intuitive Eating is changing how I look at food, how I eat, and how I manage my emotions. If you struggle with emotional/stress eating, or eating healthy, or being a person in general, I recommend this book. It really has changed my outlook on many things.

Since reading the book, I’ve come to a conclusion that my eating is fueled by emotions. My type of eating is basically to enhance or dull emotions. When I’m stressed, sad, angry, or upset… I eat to dull or numb those feelings. When I’m bored, I eat to fill the time. When I’m happy or excited or celebrating, I eat to reward myself and make myself happier. So. Much. Food.

Which is what brings me here. Even though I’ve been seeing Michelle regularly (like twice a month), I don’t feel like I’ve put forth the real effort to embrace Intuitive Eating. I definitely love the book and it has made me more aware of how and what I eat, but I haven’t really put all of the principles into action.

My goal for the next two weeks is to focus on the principle Honor Your Hunger. It is a way for me to check in with myself and ask “Am I really hungry?” It also forces me to evaluate my food choices when I decide to eat, thinking like “Is this food really going to fill me up?” As part of the Intuitive Eating journey, I’m keeping a food journal. This is the really hard part for me. I will maneuver ways around the food journal like nobody’s business. I’m hoping the blog posting will hold me more accountable to actually writing things down.

The fun begins today. Onward and upward 🙂

A Year Passes, and Progress is Made

It has been a year since Kevin and I announced our plans to adopt a baby. A year can go so quickly! We have not been waiting the whole year, though. The paperwork and application process took us 8 months due to a few delays. We officially began the waiting period in May.

The waiting period is generally quiet, for us. We hear from our adoption specialist (the person who makes sure our profile gets seen) rarely. We don’t get any “status updates,” but she does tell us that she receives good feedback about our profile. The waiting is not as hard as I imagined. Being busy with work, training for the St. Jude half, and everything else has definitely kept my mind on other things. Kevin and I have faith that God will provide when the time is right.

In the mean time, we have been preparing a nursery for our sweet baby! It has been fun gathering things and making sure we have what we need in case we had a last minute situation come up. In a perfect world, we’d have time to get ready before a due date, but sometimes, you have a few weeks or even less!

Names are picked out, too. We are keeping those to ourselves for now. We’ve incorporated both of our families with the names, and we’re on the fence about two girl’s first names… Eventually we’ll figure that one out.

Friends and family ask a lot about how it’s all going. Well, the front is very quiet and not much to report. We are praying for news, whenever it happens!