As a teacher, I want the lessons I teach to extend beyond the classroom, helping my students make their way in the world. Some may not see music as an essential skill, but I use it as a vehicle for teaching social and emotional development. I hope my students learn to live, lead, and love bigger, through the music we study, the discussions we have, and the way that I conduct myself in the classroom.
Journaling is one way to use music to develop those social and emotional skills. Last week, I played an inspirational song for my students and asked them to write about the greatest dream they have for the future. They were to write, in detail, what they wanted to do that would defy the odds and draw a picture that represented that dream.
As expected, there were many students who dreamt of becoming doctors, soldiers, entrepreneurs, teachers, and parents. The students wanted to make an impact on the world and change it for the better. It makes me so proud to know these young minds will create a safer and better place for all of us to exist.
What I didn’t expect, however, were the students whose greatest aspiration was to lose weight and be “beautiful.” It wasn’t just one student, but many. Those papers shook me to my absolute core. For those students, there is no greater disappointment in life than to be trapped in a body like mine. It is a prison that they want to spend their greatest energies trying to escape.
We have worked SO HARD to erase messages of racism, sexism, ableism, and homophobia from our students’ vocabulary. Though things are far from perfect, amazing progress is being made. School is a MUCH safer place for marginalized students than it was when I was in school in the 90’s. So then, why is it ok that we are still teaching young people that being fat is the absolute worst thing in the world?
If all bodies are good bodies, that HAS to include bodies of every size! We have to stop preaching the narrative that it’s ok to be anything… except fat. Our kids need to know that they are beautiful and have value… not in spite of the vessel that they are in… but because of it. It’s just unacceptable to continually send the mixed message that “you are enough, but…” or “you are beautiful, but…”
It took me almost 40 years to quiet the voices inside me that told me my double digit size was unacceptable… that my stretch marks were ugly… that if I just lost that little bit of weight or reached that fitness goal that my life would have more value. All my life I have been told that “at least I have a pretty face” or I am “so brave for pulling off that look.” I have done the diets, listened to the wellness people, and bought into the bullshit that everyone gave me.
Stop feeding that hate to people! Stop talking to others about yourself that way! Stop speaking that way TO yourself! Your kids are watching, and they are learning how to love and value themselves through YOU!
I want to live in a way that erases that narrative. I want my students to know that EVERY body is a good body. I want them to know that their size has absolutely NOTHING to do with their worth. And I want them to know that they can be anything… period.