Saturday, April 10, 2010

Teaching Operation Beautiful

I wanted to vary a little from my usual posts to tell you all about what I’ve been teaching my students over the past few weeks.

As my readers, you know that I am a teacher. I teach at a private school at the Jr. High level (grades 7-9 for any Americans out there). My class is very small and only consists of 10 girls. This makes for an interesting and different dynamic. Most of the time I really love it. They all get along very well and we are able to have some very good discussions. About 6 weeks ago I was sitting at my desk eating lunch and I looked around and for the first time noticed what they were eating: potato chips, chocolate bars, buttery popcorn and other forms of junk food. I watched them for a few days not saying anything. I realized this was not only normal behaviour for them but for some of them this is ALL they were eating for lunch. I decided to have a talk with them and found out that some of them hardly ever ate ‘real’ food. I decided that even though they were teenagers and that they should have already learned this before I was going to put my other curriculum on hold and take a few weeks to talk about healthy eating.

We started with discussing the four food groups and discussing how many servings of each they should have. After that I got them to make menus for one day of healthy food that they like/enjoy or at least willing to eat. I then got them each to research a food group and look at healthy choices and unhealthy choices within that group and some of the key nutrients in that food group. We also had quite a few discussions on why healthy eating is important – I have started to showing them Jaime Oliver’s Food Revolution. So far they have seen two episodes and are really loving it.

After we finished discussing healthy eating we moved on to eating disorders, body image and self-esteem. I knew from the beginning I wanted to some how incorporate Caitlin’s fantastic website: Operation Beautiful.

I considered to ask them to somehow participate in it but then I decided I didn’t want to force them to do it. It wouldn’t be the same so instead after we had a discussion about self-esteem in teenagers and how it is important to no only feel good about oneself but to make sure to pass it on I introduced them to Operation Beautiful and gave them an entire period (40 mins) to look through the website and read as much as they can on it.

Afterwards, we had a discussion and I asked them to go home think about what they read/saw on the website and write a reflection on it. I really want to share with you a few of their responses (please remember that these are 13-15 year olds and some of them are English as a Second Language students so their English/Grammar is not the same as others their age):

“As I entered my house today, after my 30 minute jog, I found myself “fat talking”. My original plan was to immediately go take a shower, but I realized this was the perfect time to reflect on ‘operation beautiful’. As was mentioned in the website, fat talking is something almost everyone is guilty of, and it has nothing to do with the way you look. I found this website absolutely amazing! Just at first sight, the colors and the design are so cheerful, which right off the bat sends off a positive vibe. As I surfed through the tabs, I was so inspired and everything that was written was so true! Reading Caitlin’s advice and encouragement about loving yourself is so motivating. I think tons of people have negative body images, and are struggling. Operation beautiful applies to so many people, and it can really help.”

“I really liked the website and it was so wonderful to see it. It really helped me see that I am beautiful. I am going to try not to say the word ugly anymore. I am proud of myself, I have black and brown curly hair and dark brown eyes…The website taught me to not care about whether I’m fat or thin but I am beautiful the way I am.”

“Operation Beautiful is a site that inspires girls about their inner and outer beauty. Operation Beautiful is an organization to help girls or women feel confident and on insecure about who they are, what they wear or how much they weigh…When I read some of the posts from the website, I felt inspired by these people who post some amazing notes just to make other girls around the world feel beautiful and confident in who they are…I am thanking this site for all the help. I realize you don’t need to be skinny, put on a lot of make-up or wear fancy clothes to be beautiful. It’s us girls who make up our own beauty.”

I am still waiting for a few more responses from some students so I might share some more this week but I after reading their responses I really wanted to share some now with all of you.

I would really love to spend more time with them talking about all of these important issues that teenagers face but I’m still a teacher and I need to go back to the regular curriculum and move on but I’m hoping that I was able to least get them to think about some of these important issues.

Thanks for reading and sticking with this long post. I will be back tomorrow with my regularly scheduled healthy living post.

~ Katie :)


Janna said...


What a GREAT idea! That is something that those girls will remember for years to come. Good for you for seeing a need and taking the time to talk to them about it! You are what ALL teachers should be about!

Thanks for sharing!

Liane said...

Thanks for sharing this story.
In high school our gym teacher took time to do a presentation on self-esteem, body image etc, and I still remember it to this day that she took the time to do that, and it's 15 years later. In fact, I ran into her two weeks ago, and we chatted about upcoming running races we are both registered for and she gave me a hard time for being unable to call her by her first name, she'll always be Miss Mac to me, no matter how many years have past :)
I know the girls in your class will remember this (and you) long after they leave your classroom.

Jes said...

I found your blog through the Operation Beautiful website, and I think that what you taught your class is absolutely amazing! I wish I had a teacher do that when I was in junior high. Thank you!

Susan said...

Classes like these should be a part of the curriculum!! You should definitely be proud of yourself as a teacher - I'm sure you affected the lives of these girls in a positive way and set them up for a much better future relationship with themselves :)

Abby said...

I totally agree that this is awesome.
I remember my high school health class, where we talked about nutrition, was nothing like this. I felt fine about my body image beforehand, but after my super-skinny no-fat-eating really fit teacher finished lecturing us on unhealthy eating and habits (for weeks!), I was really insecure for a long time. I'm fine now, but I think we would have benefitted a lot more from something like Operation Beautiful combined with healthy eating tactics.
What you're doing is absolutely wonderful!

hrclark said...

Great job, it takes a good person to notice that the "normal" isn't so normal or good.

Keep up the great teaching and your sure to help form great adults!

Eco Yogini said...

what a beautiful post. These topics are SO important for young teenage girls. Even though we like to believe that we aren't influenced by the media- the sad part is that so many young girls have disordered body image, and disordered eating habits.

I'm so excited for the link to Operation Beautiful too!! thanks :)

I really loved the book- 'Finding Ophelia' and 'Ophelia Speaks' which is about body image, the media and teenage girls. It's fantastic, highly recommend it. :)

Many Blessings Katie!

Katie said...

Thanks so much everyone for the kind words. I really appreciate everyone taking their time and reading my post.

Angie All The Way said...

Katie, I'm so proud of you for taking the time out of your regular curriculum for this because that's what GOOD teachers do!!! It's people your position that can get the attention of impressionable kids and actually make an impact. I bet you will be one of those teachers that these girls will look back on as one that "made a difference" for them.

Awesome, awesome!!