Slice of Life: Self Love Al Extremo

“Wow, Ms. When I’m your age, I want to love myself the way you love yourself.” This sweet girl stared at me with skeptical wonder in the second semester of my first year teaching.

I was disillusioned my first year teaching (as many of us were, for several reasons) by the disgust my Latina high school students had for themselves and their bodies and their worth. Many after school discussions with my mom or my husband or my mentor involved abundant tears because I saw how wonderful and beautiful these girls were – yet they themselves did not.

When I was a middle schooler, I hated my hair so much that I wore it in a ponytail every single day. In high school, I wore zipped up sweaters even in the heat – in the Texas heat! To say I was self-conscious would be an understatement. Despite my mom’s attempts at dressing me like a royal and ensuring no hair was astray (thanks mami!!), I, too, often felt like I was not pretty enough, not smart enough, not good enough; simply, not enough. It’s interesting how just a few years later, seeing myself in my students, rocked me al extremo.

Sitting outside on our first tiny apartment’s patio grading essays on a Saturday morning, I firmly decided I’d fake the hell out of self-love.

The Sánchez family did not raise me to stay quiet, avoid direct eye contact, remain invisible. And while I may not have realized or allowed that family value to sink in as a child and young adult, it served me well when I made the active choice to be a Latina model of self-love and magic. Although I do believe I faked much of that in the beginning, I’m thankful now that I was raised by a fierce and empowering family of women. The magic was likely inside of me the whole time.

Because my husband knows me so well, he gifted me both of the posters below, “one for wherever you want, and I figured you’d be taking one to the classroom.”

It isn’t quite as purposeful now, but if I doubted my impact has diminished, I can rest assured that I may still be doing something right. After ending a Zoom session about a week or two before Thanksgiving break, an in-class student randomly said with a curious smile, “You really are the star of your own show, huh, Ms. Decker?”

I teach students how to become better readers and better writers, but I also hope to teach them just how worthy and capable they are by modeling my own magic.

*Thank you for the perfect Christmas gifts, hubs! 🙂

In what ways do you actively affirm students’ self-worth and dignity in the classroom?

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I’m participating in Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life weekly challenge.

7 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Self Love Al Extremo

  1. I think one of the hardest aspects of the school shutdown and my retirement was that I didn’t get to say goodbye to a 4th grade Latina student who was just beginning to believe that she could be a reader and that she wasn’t dumb. She developed physically way ahead of her peers and was so self-conscious. Sometimes she stirred up trouble to deflect academic expectations. But I was beginning to see a shift while she was in my reading class and her progress was measurable. I hope that she will yet find a role model like you to help her believe in all she can do, learn, and be. Thank you for sharing this, Britt!

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  2. Oh, Britt, I LOVE this so much. I love the student line “You really are the star of your own show, huh, Ms. Decker?” Sort of captures it all! I tell my students “Fake it, ’til you make it,” as the third grade version, but love what you are building in your students!

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  3. Hey Britt! Great post! Thank you for sharing. I’m in my second year of teaching, and I can attest to the struggle of that first year. Obviously, this year is special but nothing like that first year. Fake it till you make it is way easier said than done, but I’m glad you persisted. It is so important to learn self-love and have role models in life in their formative years. Your students are lucky to have you.

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  4. Britt, this is really cool. I’m an elementary school guy, and I love what I do. Sometimes, though, I wonder what it would be like to teach middle school, and to tell you the truth, it’s intimidating as all get out. I’m so happy there are teachers like you who purposefully make a difference in the lives of those kids. Thank you!

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  5. Just another great example that shows teachers don’t just teach subject matter. As someone who taught for 40 years I only hope that my students left me not only with academic knowledge but also with a sense of self worth.

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  6. This is a beautiful post, Britt, I loved it! I am grateful for you sharing this. Throughout your own experience when you were younger, you can empathize with your students and show your compassion to them, and you never fake that, it’s truly genuine. You are not only modeling your self-love but also showing your love to your students.

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