“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?