Diversity in Texts Includes Mental Illness and People with Disabilities

I’ve been SO excited to see the buzz on Twitter of people posting diverse booklists. I’ve posted some of those tweets below.  As a special education teacher, I just want to make sure that diversity in texts also means representations of people with mental/physical disabilities.  It’s important for all students to see themselves represented in the world on a consistent basis.  I just completed reading Lighter than my Shadow (Goodreads review below) by Katie Green and I’ve thought of three students I want to pass it on to in my classes. I didn’t think of the students because they have the same issues, I just know it is a book they will all enjoy.

There are several amazing books you can include in your classroom libraries, and possibly include excerpts in your different unit plans. Some examples:

El Deafo by CeCe Bell

My Degeneration: A Journey Through Parkinson’s by Peter Dunlap-Shohl

Epileptic by David B.

Lighter than my Shadow by Katie Green

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

The Fault in our Stars by John Green

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

Like graphic novels and novels, there are now many television shows and movies that can be added to this list.  When you are creating a diverse curriculum, how do you represent students with disabilities and people with mental illness?




Lighter Than My ShadowLighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Quiet, thin, creative and cute, Katie’s early imaginative days fill the first pages of the graphic novel with memories that connect you to that childlike, innocent experience. A picky eater as a child (so was I), she also has strange quirks that would now be labeled as OCD. As Katie grows older, she seems to want to capture that innocence and take it with her which consequently results in her moving more inward. Choosing a path that looks like control, Katie becomes powerless and loses herself, her dreams, and hope. Will she ever lead a normal, healthy life?

Katie Green’s visual storytelling combines with well-chosen words, immersing you in her experience. A brief warning, if you don’t want to read about multiple mental health issues combined with sexual abuse, then forgo the 500 pages. While some might feel that parts of the story are repetitive, this is what recovery looks like. Anyone who writes a story of his/her struggle is rarely telling a new story, but we all need to be reminded that overcoming our own personal demons is possible.

View all my reviews


Google Certification: Is it Worth it?

Looky at what I did!

What if I said you can take a 180 minute test that you pay for, and not get a raise for it? Then, if you pass that one, you can do it again and pay even more? Oh, did I mention the test only is valid for a short period of time and you’ll have to take it again? Who’s in? Well, if you’re anything like me, you’re ready to sign up, no more information needed.

Most of you may be aware that Google has educator certifications that showcase a person’s ability to seamlessly integrate technology into the classroom in order to deliver meaningful instruction that promotes critical and creative thinking for students at all levels. But is it necessary? Will schools recognize your efforts to engage in independent professional development?

The answer to the first question is: Yes! Every teacher should work towards, at the minimum, a Level 1 Educator certification.  I know that *all* is extreme language, however, the benefits of being able to harmoniously utilize technology in a purposeful manner while teaching should be a goal for every teacher. Adversely, the answer to the second question is: No, or probably not! As teachers, we constantly strive to improve our craft, whether that be through improving content knowledge or improving engagement strategies. These efforts are typically not rewarded monetarily or in any other tangible manner by administrators.  However, as teachers, these are not the rewards that motivate personal professional development.  As teachers, we respect and admire professionalism and strive to improve the experience for students in our classrooms.  In this manner, your efforts to gain a Google Educator certification will be immediately rewarded.

The Secret to Passing Level 1 and Level 2 Educator Certifications

Perhaps different from most people, all through high school and college, I LIKED taking tests.  I would dress up, pride myself in always being the first one done, and typically set the curve or bar. When I started Googling information about the certifications, several prominent people in education circles (even published teachers) wrote about failing the test the first time they took it. Admittedly, this rattled by confidence.  I even considered PAYING for a course to prepare for the test.  That notion quickly dissipated when I saw people were charging $100-$250 dollars for such a course.  Whenever you decide to become certified, DON’T pay anyone.  Google has an absolutely free module in their Training Center that completely prepares you for the exams.  If you know something–you can skip over it.  There are self-checking quizzes along the way that show how questions will be phrased in the exams.

The modules do take some time to complete but the experience is completely worthwhile.  I found myself trying new things in my classroom after completing almost each module. I passed both certifications on the first try; therefore, the secret to passing the certifications is to complete Google’s absolutely free training and simultaneously use the skills immediately with your students.

The Benefits of Certification

There are so many reasons to prepare and take the certifications for educators:

  • Increased student engagement due to exciting learning environment
  • Students are enabled to think critically and creatively
  • Technology integration is seamless
  • You learn how to connect with other Google certified teachers for support
  • You can utilize your knowledge to support other teachers

The truth is I sometimes forget the benefits because GAFE (Google Apps for Education) have become such a natural part of my lesson-planning process.  It wasn’t until I looked at ONE lesson plan that I created the other day that it dawned on me how much I have learned in the past two years.  As we start the new year fresh with students, in American Literature I always want to explore the different layers of identity and power so that students can readily see who is included and who is systematically excluded in society.  In my lesson, without having to even think about it, I utilized Google Classroom, Google Sites, Google Drawings, YouTube playlists and self-made instructional videos to create a dynamic experience for my students about identity.  That’s the true benefit of certification-the seamless integration of technology to develop students’ abilities to read the world.

My ultimate goal is to become a Google Innovator. My question for you is: What is keeping you from taking the next step and becoming certified?