Teacher Jabba

I was joking around with my kids, telling them that I would chase them and beat them if they messed up my freshly-swept floor. Ethan started clumsily bolting around the room, with all the grace of the last kid picked at dodgeball, and shouted, “Miss Mandy can’t catch me!” The other kids laughed, and Jean shouted, “No, because she is fat!”

Stopping dead in my tracks, I glared at Jean. I wanted to make fun of her fivehead or the fact that she had the social aptitude of an idiot savant. But c’mon, really? Getting mad at a kid because she hurt your 28-year-old feelings? That’s just stupid. I need to go Dr. Phil on my feelings. Why am I really upset?

Good hair, marshmallow face. This picture should be featured on a milk carton: Missing: Mandy's cheekbones

Kids tell the truth. They don’t understand politics or white lies or beating around the bush. They see it, they say it. Constructive criticism is just twenty one letters of confusion.

So Jean says I’m fat. She doesn’t mean I resemble Jabba the Hut. She probably doesn’t even think I’m really that big; I’m just bigger than most women she knows. But in this infuriating moment she voices the concern that I’ve had for a while.

Since the “I MOVED ABROAD AND LIFE IS ONE GIANT ADVENTURE!” wore off into the “I live abroad and life is still life”, I’ve gained some weight. I have all kinds of excuses. Between emotional and physical factors, I’ve been a Biggest Loser cry-your-eyes-out episode for a good while now.

Fluffy like a giant teddy bear, and just as fun to hug! I didn't ever want this picture to see the light of day, or the internet, but this is a good example of a day when I felt extra pudgy. And my hair was flat. Stupid hair.

My self-esteem rests quite heavily on my physical state. I don’t care about my weight, but I do care about how I feel when I look at my body. When I feel athletic, I have fewer worries – about figuring out my love life, about figuring out my future, about figuring out anything else that needs figuring out.

Thankfully I have a friend here, Denise, who’s just as interested in being more athletic. The past three weeks she and I have pushed our bodies at least four times a week, to the point where my legs give out as I sit down. I actually feel guilty when the lady on my RunKeeper app tells me I’m running too slow. We’re going to be athletes, and the RunKeeper lady will be proud of us.

Denise and me in October 2010, before I decided that Hi Chew candies were my best friends.

I just hope that the next time I’m walking into work and, upon running into Jake, hear, “Whoa!”, I don’t immediately wonder if he said that out of surprise or disgust. But my self-esteem doesn’t rest on my supervisor’s opinion of me. That would be lame. Almost as lame as getting mad at an 8-year-old idiot savant for calling me fat.

This would be what Jake saw that morning. Not too terrifying.

(Just to clarify, she’s not really an idiot savant. Jean’s one of the smartest kids I know.)


  1. Oh Amandy! You know what’s funny, in the first picture you posted where you’re pointing at the sign, my first thought was “Mandy’s lost more weight!” So tell that idiot savant to suck it. She won’t know what you’re saying anyway, so it won’t matter and will make you feel better in the process 🙂

    I love you and just know that you are doing great! The best thing about gaining weight is that you get to have a whole new sense of accomplishment when you lose it again and it’s fun trying! So keep at it – you are already an athletic rockstar and the runkeeper lady only tells you you’re going too slow because she’s sitting behind a computer doing voiceover for a runkeeper app. She probably weighs 400 lbs and is eating fried chicken while she does it. Love you!

    1. I’m on my way – Denise and I are training for a 10K, so the weight is going to take care of itself. Thanks for the love 🙂 Update your blog, Future Mama!

    1. Hola Senora! I used to think that if I taught at all, it would be older kids – high school or freshmen in college. Now that I’ve taught a year, I realize I’m not cut out for them! People like you, my mother and my Aunt Diana are amazing for teaching for so many years. My hat off to you all!

  2. If I took everything to heart the things my students said about me over the years, I’d leave the profession! Just last week I had the kiddos write acroctic poems for the names everyone in class. For MRS RUSSELL, one of the kids wrote LARGE for the last L. Oh well. I do in fact have about 135 lbs. on the little guy. I rather like the honesty. Keeps me humble. But their comments don’t define me either. Know who you are and be glad. You are wonderful.

    1. Ah, I’m not upset – it was just the incentive I needed to start working out again. I guess I should give her an A for the help on that one 🙂

  3. When I did my student teaching, I distributed an evaluation sheet asking students to “give me advice” for my future. I was particularly interested in what the valedictorian- to-be would say. After reading the usual “You’ll be great” comments I came to Tom’s evaluation. On it he had written, “Lose weight”. I was crushed. I looked pretty good, I thought, wore a size 12/14, and was receiving compliments from family and friends who knew I had lost considerable weight since beginning college.

    After twenty+ years of teaching, never having been called “fat” to my face, (BTW, high school and college students, even the rudest of them, know better.) I was asked to conduct a writing seminar for our 137 faculty members. The presentation took several weeks to prepare and five days to present. I had gained about sixty pounds since student teaching. Still, during those weeks and days of prep and presentation, I never gave a thought to those sixty pounds or the critique of my audience about my physical appearance, not before, not during, not after.

    What had happened in the thirty-five+ years between Tom’s note and my seminar?
    In a word “deliverance.” Through countless hours and countless students I came to see myself in multiple dimensions. I am/was not a given size or a given weight. I am/was a person whose worth should be measured by my character, honesty, integrity, well, you get the idea. You are a college grad with enormous courage, a beautiful heart, a loving/loved young woman. As the years go by, you will continue to add to your laurels and accomplishments. Measure those and not your waistline. As your mom so simply and accurately said, “You are wonderful.”

    1. Aw, thanks, Aunt Diana! It’s interesting to look back and see the person I was when I started college and know who I am now. I’ve changed so much! I’m very lucky to have a solid support system behind me, no matter what I look like or where I go, just because they love me for me. I couldn’t ask for a better gift.

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