For Me, Sexy is a Size 10

I’ve experienced many pant sizes in my 32 years of life. For most of high school and college, I was a size 6. I was what I generally call “skinny,” especially due to the fact that I am almost 5’9″. I have very long legs and no torso. Well not really, but it sure does seem that way when I’m shopping for jeans.

When I gave birth to our last son in 2009, I walked into the hospital weighing in at 226 pounds. I had gained 60 pounds during that pregnancy. When we arrived home, I found that my true body weight, now without baby and extra fluid, was 201 pounds. I was miserable. My body hurt and I had no energy. My jeans were a size 16. So I made a commitment and stuck to it.

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I’ve learned that any weight loss program will work. It’s not the program; it’s the commitment. I lost 35 pounds following the Nutrisystem program. In the picture above, I was a size 10. It fit me well, and it was comfortable. I was happy at that weight for quite a while. Then I learned that my friend was getting married and I allowed society’s pressures to overtake me. Even though my body was happy and comfortable at a size 10, I convinced myself I needed to lose more weight in order to look my “best” in my bridesmaid dress for the May 2013 wedding. I lost another 30 pounds on my own. At 5’9″, I was 140 pounds.

This is what I got…

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I get that in 2009, I was too heavy. Losing weight was needed, but I took it too far. Yes, I lost the weight and everyone told me how good I looked, except for my family…those close to me saw what a struggle I was in. They told me I looked too thin and they were genuinely worried. I didn’t want to hear it then, but you know what? They were right. They told me the truth. I knew it then too. You know how I know? Because I had to work my ass off, literally, to get to that size and then to stay at that size.

I was obsessed. I didn’t enjoy life because everything I ate made me feel horrible about myself. If I indulged even the tiniest bit, I just knew I would regret it because I would have to work so hard to over-compensate for that moment of yumminess. Every conversation turned into working out and eating right. Nobody cared but me, so essentially I was talking to hear myself. I wasn’t living life to enjoy life. I was living to stay skinny. I was taking time away from my family not only by working out constantly but also by obsessing over my weight; and these were the people I wanted to better myself for but who just wanted more of me…in quality time.

I had to focus so hard to stay at a weight my body didn’t like that it overtook me; I saw myself going down a dangerous road. Was this the life I really wanted?

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This was the picture that changed everything for me. I looked at myself and saw someone skinny…and miserable. Those sweet boys and that handsome husband deserved to have more of me. Jeremy, my husband, has always loved me completely. I remember looking at him and saying, “Do you think I look better at this weight?” I could feel the pain in his voice when he had obviously had enough of these conversations, “No. I think you look better when you allow yourself to enjoy life more.” Who was I doing this for?

In truth, I was covering up an awful lot of pain. And Jeremy knew it. My husband suffered from severe depression and had survived multiple suicide attempts; my weight was something I could control when the rest of my world felt like it was crashing around me. It took me almost losing Jeremy, really almost losing him, to remember I’m not in control. And even trying to control something as simple as my weight was turning into just another pressure in life. I was taking it too far. I had to learn to let go and let God.

This video will detail more of our life’s struggles so you understand my need to control something…

So here I am today. We’ll fast-forward quite a bit. It’s almost 2017 and everyone is talking about their desires to lose weight. I’m included in that conversation since I indulged over Christmas a bit too much. I also learned, in April of this year, that I have Celiac disease. Gluten-free products are everywhere now, so it wasn’t a super difficult change. Don’t get me wrong, it was very overwhelming at first. But I have found it’s not so bad. And I feel amazing so that helps too. After 32 years of gut problems, my body is healing. But those gluten-free products are packed full of sugar. And I’ve gained weight.

I’m a size 13-14 now and my back is starting to hurt a bit. I can tell I have a little more weight on me than my body likes because, over the years of healing, I’ve allowed myself to indulge maybe a bit more than I needed to and all that sugar is packing on the pounds. My husband is doing amazingly; it’s been almost 9 months since he’s had even a suicidal thought. He takes his medication daily, sleeps with his CPAP nightly to get more oxygen to his brain, and meets with his psychiatrist, counselor, and pastor regularly. His brain is healing because he works hard to help himself by accepting help. So I need to do it too.

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My seven-year-old snapped this picture of mommy today. I know how to lose weight because I’ve done it before. I’ll do it again, but I won’t allow it to overtake me. For me, sexy is a size 10. My body is comfortable at a size 10 and I can stay there by eating sensibly, walking regularly, and indulging occassionally.

The right weight is about your own body’s healthy, and we all have different body types and comfort zones. My body likes a size 10 and I like it there too. So that’s my realistic and healthy goal. 

I’ll let you in on a secret, you’re sexy. Find your own body’s sexy. And if someone is telling you you aren’t, no matter what your size, find someone else to have a conversation with. For me, sexy is a size 10, but my husband clearly thinks sexy is a size 13-14 right now. 😉 When I get to a size 11-12, he’ll think I’m sexy there, too.

When we learn to listen to our own bodies, we can get excited about losing weight. We can even enjoy it. I’m looking forward to losing weight in the coming months because I know I can do it. I know my goal is realistic and healthy and I know it won’t happen overnight. I won’t let it overtake me, I’ll allow myself to indulge every now and then, and I’ll lose weight slowly and on my terms.

Follow our journey advocating for mental health and raising two boys on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jeremyandbaileykoch/. Learn our whole story at http://www.jeremyandbailey.com/

Real Advice to My Children As You Head Back to School

Back to school.

A few months ago, the words seemed forever away. Excitement filled the air as kids were dreaming of what fun adventures their summers would hold. Well…the time has come. Summer is coming to an end as it tends to do. School shopping has commenced and the air is now filled with a mixture of excitement and terror (depending on who you talk to of course) with the impending first day of school just around the corner.

Myself…I’m an educator. I’ve always looked forward to back to school. I love the excitement in the halls and the promise of lessons learned. I have one son who absolutely loves school…just like his momma. Hudson will be in the fourth grade this year and is extremely social. He loves being around his friends all day and having similar experiences as them. He can’t wait. And then there’s Asher. Our youngest son will be entering the first grade this year, and he’s a ball of nerves. He’ll do fine, but the initial shock and adjustment is always a bit of a challenge.

But no matter what your child’s mood is concerning the unavoidable, school is starting. Words of wisdom don’t come to me when my kids are leaving with backpacks loaded to the brim. They don’t enter my mind as we are in the car on the way to school. And they certainly don’t come as I watch my boys jump out of the car and run to eagerly pull open the door of knowledge.

What does come to me? Tears. Always tears.

I’m not one to want my babies to stay babies forever. I am truly loving every minute of them growing and establishing their own personalities, likes, and dislikes. But every year I am overcome with emotion as soon as their little bodies leave my line of sight. Why? Every year, I marvel at how proud I am becoming of my humans.

So here is my real advice to my children as you head back to school. This is what is most important to this momma:

  1. Show your Christ-filled heart in everything you do.

    This is something I’m still learning as I get older. People will know you by what you say and do, not what you say you are going to do. Do not be afraid to show your heart, the heart your momma knows, to everyone you come in contact with. Open doors for your friends and say, “Good morning!” as you all flood in. Imagine how many of these kids are just as nervous as you are. Your smile may be their comfort and hope of a great school year. Give high-fives and hugs to your friends (old, new, and future). Visit your teachers. Your smile, positivity, and excitement will be contagious.

  2. Be you. No worse and no better than them. Just you.

    Equality. It was 1954 (yes, before I was here) when segregation was finally considered illegal in public schools across our country. But watch the news today and you will see it everywhere. It’s as though our world is digressing and it’s shameful. You, no matter what color you are, what your social status is, how much money you have, or who your family is, are just you. Just be you, the you who Jesus loves the same as the person you are standing next to. Stand up for you and for others. If it’s wrong, it’s wrong.

  3. Wrong is wrong. Take a stand.

    This one requires some more explanation and is a perfect continuation from point number two. Wrong is wrong. It does not matter if you are white, black, brown, purple, blue, orange, rich, poor, somewhere in-between…wrong is wrong. You, my children, know right from wrong. I will never…NEVER…punish you for standing up for what is right. But you know what the consequences will be if you choose to make bad decisions and treat others, any others, with disrespect.

  4. Stand up for those who can’t easily stand up for themselves.

    To me, my sweethearts, this is most important. There are some people in this world who choose to take advantage of others, some who are just plain mean. Sometimes standing up for others is as simple as putting your arm around another, extending a hand, or offering to play and be a friend. Others will follow you. Be a leader, one who helps and doesn’t hurt.

  5. Encourage others.

    Someone has to win and it won’t always be you. In fact, most times it will be someone else. Learn to give a high-five to the winner and say “awesome job” to everyone else. Change the definition and help yourself and all others understand that a winner is also someone who can win and lose with grace. One day, the one who lost will win. Help everyone remember that.

  6. Be honest.

    Remember what I said about others knowing you for what you do and say, not for what you say you are going to do. It becomes all too easy to tell fibs in life. And then those fibs turn into lies, and the lies turn into deceit. Learn now to be honest and it will come easier and easier as you get older. Listen to that little voice inside of you telling you to tell the truth. Sometimes, honesty will get you in trouble; this is true and something I know all too well. But the reality is that the trouble you will be in will be far less than the trouble that a fib, lie, or deceit will cause. Just tell the truth.

  7. You make a mistake. You fix a mistake.

    Yes. Stumbles will happen. You will make bad decisions from time to time. There is a lot to be said for being able to say, “I was wrong, and I’m sorry.” There is a lot to be said for “doing your time.” You won’t always be forgiven right away by whomever you hurt, but healing will happen in time. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. If you make a mistake, you fix a mistake. You learn, you move on, and you try not to let it happen again.

  8. Believe in yourself and work hard.

    You are so smart and so capable. I truly believe nothing…NOTHING…is out of your reach if you learn to truly believe in your abilities and work hard for whatever your goal is. Success is what you make it.

  9. Be a gentleman.

    Yes, this one is specifically geared toward my sons. I understand the push toward gender equality and I fully support it, but I also am extremely old-fashioned when it comes to the role of men in society. I do believe you, my boys, need to understand the importance of growing into a man who can lovingly and faithfully lead a wife and family one day. Open doors for girls and women, tell them they look nice (not hot and not sexy), offer your jacket if someone is cold, encourage them to achieve their goals, stop negative or inappropriate talk if you hear it or are being part of it…the list goes on and on. Help females see themselves as you see them…beautiful and capable, strong and worthy.

  10. Be the good.

    We say in our house all the time that God will make all things good, and it’s so true. Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” If we don’t understand the bad, then we must work to show others that good exists. It’s not as hard as it sounds when we remember to give the credit where it should go. God is the good. God is all things good, and He made you. Be the good.

Have a wonderful school year, my sweethearts. I will shed some tears as you jump out of our van and run to open that door for others, but they are tears of joy. They are tears of excitement at the promise of lessons learned and more opportunities to spread good. I love you so very much and am so proud to be your momma.

All my love,

Mom
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http://www.jeremyandbailey.com/

Please like our page on Facebook to follow our journey and share our mission with others. https://www.facebook.com/jeremyandbaileykoch/

An Overwhelming Truth: Food Allergy Diagnoses

So the last month has been pretty horrible concerning stomach pain and intestinal issues in this family. We know what caused Jeremy’s and how to heal him, so now it appears it’s my turn. I have dealt with pretty severe stomach issues my entire life. But the stress of Jeremy being in the hospitals last month was enough to throw my system into complete meltdown-mode. So it was time to do something.

A simple stomach scope procedure immediately revealed results, so it was nice to know we didn’t need to go further to look into the problem. At least not right now. Last week, I was officially diagnosed with gastritis. Basically, it’s severe inflammation of the lining of the stomach. My stomach gets very angry and is extremely sensitive. We have to plan trips around bathrooms and I have always had to be very careful of what I eat when we will not be at or around home. It gets annoying, and I’m kind of done dealing with it.

But yesterday, my world took another turn. Essentially, gastritis is caused by something. There is something constantly in my diet that is causing the severe inflammation. Now we have to figure out what it is. While I will go on Monday for official testing, we are pretty certain at this point (based on other tests and food trials) that I am both gluten and dairy intolerant. If you didn’t know – gluten and milk are in A LOT of foods.

So yesterday, I cried. It may sound silly, but I was completely overwhelmed with this news. One part of me was angry with myself for not having tried to figure this all out a long time ago; I could have saved myself and my family an awful lot of grief. Another part of me was scared of what family members and friends will think. Will they think I’m rude if I respectfully decline dinner invitations or attempt to politely ask what will be served so I can bring my own food if necessary? Is that even okay? I used to think gluten intolerance was just a fad for a lifestyle adjustment; will my family and friends think I’m making this up? Why am I worried about what others think of my intestinal issues?

I know living with food allergies is doable. Thank God for my friend, Tasia. I text her immediately when we found out this is a pretty strong likelihood. Her family has been dairy, gluten, and egg free for years because of Celiac Disease, especially in her boys. She’s basically a clean-eating rock star. So talking to her made me have more confidence. I also know quite a bit about milk allergies since we found out a few years ago our oldest is allergic to milk. I’m pretty awesome at reading labels. But even with that, after a while we started getting more relaxed with allowing Hudson to have some milk in his diet. However, recently his symptoms have really taken off in the wrong direction, so that will be changing again right along with mommy’s new way of living. It seems elimination is the only way Hudson and I will be able to get any relief from the intestinal issues we are suffering from. I hate taking medications long term; so if we can control this with diet, that’s the way we will go.

Monday, we go in for official food allergy testing. Hudson will be re-tested, and mommy gets to have the testing done for the first time. We are confident we know what results will be based on other tests, but there’s still a chance we could have more or fewer allergies than we think. And on the bright side, I have been really careful this weekend, only having certain things every now and then to see how my body reacts. And guess what? I feel really good. When you notice the absence of stomach pain more than actual stomach pain, you’ve been living with something you shouldn’t have to live with for too long. So that’s where I’m at. A short time ago, however, I had some sour cream with chips and salsa. That did not go well. My body immediately became very angry with me. So I am positive I have the milk allergy my son has; and I’ve known that for a long time. I just kept eating it because I like it. Smart, right? I know. And gluten. Oh man gluten is yummy stuff too. But I’m quickly learning my lesson there too based upon an elimination diet.

So that’s where I’m at. I’m overwhelmed but also glad to know healing will happen. My husband is such an inspiration for this stuff. He lives with depression and he fights it. We do everything we can to help his health improve. I’ve kind of ignored and neglected my own for quite a while now through nobody’s fault but my own.

I’ll know more after Monday morning, and I’m really glad of that. There may be more in my diet I shouldn’t be eating that may be causing my gastritis to flare up. Knowledge is power. Clean eating is good. I’m on my way to health.

If you would, friends, please send up some prayers for Monday’s appointments to bring even more clarity with this overwhelming gluten and dairy information. And also, I’m sharing because I would gladly accept any advice any of you have if you suffer from these types of food allergies. So please share with me. I’m an open book and am having to really dig into my research skills right now.

Thanks so much. ~Bailey

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I’m solar powered and today is beautiful. Sunshine heals. 😉

 

Cozad, NE Mental Health Support Group “Anchoring Hope” Officially Began

We believe there is a time for everything, and everything has to come in His time, not ours. For years, we have wanted to begin a support group in Central Nebraska for those suffering from mental illness or supporting a loved one. We drove to Kearney on Monday nights for a long time, as Kearney had the closest support group. But we stopped going when the drive and time away from our boys started making advocating for our mental health that much harder.

But we missed it terribly. Being surrounded by others who truly understand your reality is liberating, healing, and needed.

The support group was one of the first times we truly opened up. We said it out loud…

“Hi, my name is Jeremy and I have severe depression. I have been hospitalized inpatient twice and I have attempted suicide five times. I was nearly killed in a car accident we believe was caused by a depression medication failure.”

“Hi, my name is Bailey and I’m Jeremy’s wife. Being the primary support person is hard. It’s hard not to take the symptoms personal. I also have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperativity Disorder).”

It still feels good to say it out loud, to truly own it. We laugh about our reality often. We joke that either Jeremy really sucks at trying to kill himself, or we are still here together on this Earth for a reason. It may be both.

“But finding good in this evil is our way of telling Satan to go to hell and stay there.” – from our “Depression Yesterday. Depression Today.” blog post.

So nearly seven years after the initial depression diagnosis, it’s time to advocate for mental health. It’s time to help others understand you are not alone. It’s time for us to take what we have learned and show those suffering or supporting that there is hope, that life is worth living, and that God is good, even when circumstances aren’t.

The first “Anchoring Hope” support group is officially created. And its home is right here in Central Nebraska, Cozad to be exact.

The brochure pictures below have a lot of information on them about who we are, why we want to help, and what we believe about mental health.

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We hope this is the first support group of many. We hope to expand support groups one day. But a journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step. Thank you for being a part of our first step.

If you would like to join us, please do. If you are struggling with mental illness or trying to support a loved one, please come. Please know you are not alone. Please know we are all in this together and God wants us to fight. We are stronger together.

The “Anchoring Hope” for mental health support group of Cozad will meet every Monday evening from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at United Way (105 East Hwy 30) just south of the 100th Meridian sign.

Be sure to like “Anchoring Hope” on Facebook to stay up to date on support group information (weather and holiday cancellations included) as well as “Jeremy & Bailey Koch: Anchoring Hope for Mental Health Ministry” to follow our personal story and journey.

We are blessed and beyond thrilled to be finally be taking another step toward doing what we know God has planned for our lives. Mental health advocacy is our passion and our purpose. You are the reason we are here and we pray we can help each other.

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We would especially like to thank United Way for providing us a place to meet free of charge; you are such a blessing to us and many. Additionally, we plan to have a middle or high school student there during meetings to provide care for children in a separate room…just another way we would like you to know your priorities are important, but advocating for your mental health keeps you around for your family. If you do bring your children, we suggest a $2.50 donation per child to the person watching kids for the hour, but of course there is absolutely no cost for attending the support group and if you cannot afford a child care donation, your mental health comes first. We understand.

Please share with anyone who you may feel would benefit from attending the “Anchoring Hope” for mental health support group in Cozad, Nebraska on Monday nights from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at United Way (105 East Hwy 30) just south of the 100th Meridian sign. The first meeting will take place Monday, January 11, 2016 and will continue weekly pending no weather or holidays (watch Facebook for any cancellations).

Thank you for support and God bless. We are so excited to be taking this step in our mental health ministry.

Our links:

Anchoring Hope on Facebook

Jeremy & Bailey Koch: Anchoring Hope for Mental Health Ministry on Facebook

www.jeremyandbailey.com

www.jeremyandbaileyblog.com

“Never Alone” in eBook format on Amazon

When God Says “No” and I wanted “Yes”

Well, my pride is hurt. My feelings are hurt. I’m all out just bummed right now. I’m kind of on a pity party. I know I’ll get over it but I don’t really want to yet. I just want to be mad right now. Thankfully, I know how to not take this out on my husband and kids (mistakes made in the past have helped me move past that aspect of my pity party), but I still just need to be mad.

You see, here’s the deal. Let’s go back in time to August of 2013…

I knew I needed to leave my job and secure paycheck as a public education teacher; I knew it because God made it obvious. I was terrified to go to Jeremy and tell him that this is what I felt I needed to do for our family. To my surprise, Jeremy had no hesitations. None. Sure, honey. We are small business owners who often rely on your paycheck during the winter when we can’t always pay me, but quit your job. I understand and support you completely. I believe in you and what we are trying to do together for our family.

That’s awesome. My husband is amazing. So when am I going to start believing in me the way he believes in me?

So I did it. I quit my job. I left with stellar recommendations from my administrators and co-teachers. I was working on my doctoral degree and holding fast to a 4.0 GPA. Everyone I knew said to me, “Oh you’ll find a job immediately. Anyone would be lucky to have you.” You can likely tell that I didn’t only leave with these qualifications and amazing references, I also left with a giant I’m awesome attitude.

Well, God has a way of humbling us when we try to take on the glory ourselves rather than giving it to Him. I’ve learned my lesson…and am still learning it.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of good has come from me leaving my job. Like…a lot. God has provided for us when we needed it, and I know He will continue to. We have even had family members who believe in us so deeply that they give and give of themselves. Do you have any idea how hard it is to accept financial gifts from family? Holy cow…there’s a lesson I didn’t ever think I’d have to learn. But now I know how God works; He is teaching me how He wants me to be for my future generations. I am working my butt off right now to set up our family financially for the future. And will I give as best I can to my kids, grandkids, parents, etc. when I am able? You bet your butt I will…because I know what it feels like to need it.

Our retirement is draining because we have been living off of that, but one day it will fill up again. We are learning to live without truly knowing how God is going to provide. I do love our life, but sometimes hearing “No” from God when I wanted “Yes” is hard.

So here is what has happened since I left my job. I had applied for over 70 positions without even getting a call-back. When I finally did get an interview, the entire thing was in Spanish. Yep…the entire interview. While I do have a degree in Spanish, teaching the alphabet to 7th graders for 7 years has its way of limiting higher-level conversational skills. I felt so stupid. I immediately started reading my old Spanish textbooks to brush up…but I wasn’t shocked when they never called me again. Lol…actually we got a good laugh out of it and I stopped applying for any Spanish teaching positions where I would have to converse face-to-face. Reading…great. Writing…good. Speaking…well, crap.

But I did get to be home with our youngest son during his last year before starting Kindergarten and be there 100% for my husband as we learned how to more effectively manage his depression. I got to finish up our book and get it published. “Never Alone: A Husband and Wife’s Journey with Depression and Faith” became a reality in March and is our life story. I know that is the main reason I was supposed to leave my job, because we focused on that and our story has helped many understand the reality of mental illness. I know that I will have more time now to help our book reach more people who may be struggling with truly understanding what it is like to either live with severe depression and suicidal thoughts (or another unseen illness) or to be the primary support person for someone suffering. I cannot even begin to explain the joy we feel when we realize that God has used us, yet again, to help somebody accept help with mental illness. It is so humbling and has truly helped us understand that God is in control and we are not. We wrote because God told us to. We shared because God put it on our hearts. And we receiving healing, understanding, and support as a result of sharing. God is so good.

I also got to focus on my doctoral degree being unemployed. As I type, I literally have three assignments left before I am in complete dissertation mode. And yes, I’m still holding onto my 4.0 GPA. Don’t be impressed, it’s freaking hard. I am up most nights until midnight or later just praying for the strength and knowledge to complete my assignments correctly. I sit at my desk and try to concentrate while also trying to balance my life as a small business owner, writer, wife, and mom of two young boys. I spend around 45 hours a week on homework alone. Now that I realize it’s not me, it’s God, it has become easier. I won’t lie. God made me passionate about special education, about students, and about writing. He gave me talents and I am putting them to use for this degree. I do believe He will make the work worth it because I believe I have the power to do good for future educators and students, but I’m ready now. Apparently He’s not.

I do get to start at the University of Nebraska at Kearney in August as an adjunct instructor. While I thought the possibility of full-time employment was there right now, it’s not. And I just found out today. So I’m bummed. But even writing has helped me practice what I preach. God is in control and I am not. While my plan is wrecked, I have to focus on the good. God has opened a door; I’m still getting to teach. It’s just not full-time. I’m still being given an amazing opportunity to begin my new career. Someday, it will be more. But right now, God says no. He has something more planned for me in the present moment that I don’t yet know about.

So I’ll begin my new career slowly, enthusiastically, and gratefully. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us. Because if it’s anything like what He did for us since I left that comfortable life, bring it on. We may have little money, but we have more love and understanding than we ever have; and you can’t put a price on that.

This Is Why…

The decision for me to leave education after seven years as a Special Education, Spanish, and Business teacher was easier than you might think. And today, again, I was reinforced in my decision.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved Gothenburg. We do have amazing students there, and the administrators (especially Mr. Evans…shout-out) do the best they can with the situation that they are in because of what education has become nationally. So don’t take this or any other posts about my feelings on education to be about Gothenburg, it’s just where I was at. Gothenburg, just like every other school, is under so much pressure from the government (mainly testing and budgeting) that they have no choice but to “teach to the test”. Yes, you’ve heard it a million times. And you may be thinking, “Yeah, yeah…teach to the test.” But it’s true. And it’s sad.

I truly don’t believe that education was always like this. In fact, when I began in education I was completely fired up for it! I was very fortunate. The general education classes that I taught were not courses that were assessed with standardized testing; this left me with a lot of freedom. I created the curriculum myself for 7th grade Spanish, 8th grade Spanish, and Entrepreneurship. And it was fun! My administrators were wonderful in supporting me with different activities for reinforcement. I had a blast teaching. Why? Because I was able to get to know my students individually and teach them in their own unique ways. I tried very hard to do just that as it was always my goal…to connect with kids and give them someone responsible whom they could trust. I was honest. I made mistakes and I called myself out on them…it made me human to my students. And I have made wonderful professional relationships with kids to this day. Will I friend those kids on Facebook now that I am no longer their teacher? You’re darn right I will. And why would I do this? Some of these kids just need to know that somebody cares. And when they feel sad or depressed, where is the first place they turn to anymore? Facebook. They put it out there on the Internet just hoping somebody will notice them. So I do. I want them to know that I will always be their teacher. I will always support them. And I will always believe in them.

Leaving my students was the hardest part by far. One the last day of school, they threw me a surprise party in our co-taught English class. I was unbelievably blessed to co-teach 7th grade English with, by far, the most amazing teacher I have ever had the pleasure of knowing and now calling a friend. Mrs. Clark (another shout-out) has a way of getting students to understand material while having a blast and learning respect. She’s absolutely amazing. Kids give Mrs. Clark and I memories that we treasure forever. And on that last day of school this year, I was a blubbering mess. I was ready for my new adventure, but I wasn’t ready to not see those junior high smiles and get those hugs and high fives when kids come running at you so fast that you have no choice but to hug back or you’ll fall over. I’ll miss that. Kids are amazing.

So why isn’t education about kids anymore? We make kids sit in a blank room because “colors and too much on the walls distract from learning”. Crap. We make everyone be completely silent because it’s easier for everyone to learn. No (not for everyone). The danger is in believing that every kid learns in the same ways; and that is what education is about now.

Let’s use me for example…yes, I’m 30. But I have the maturity of a 7th grader so I count as a fabulous example. I’m going to be a doctor of Special Education soon (hopefully by May 2016). Not once…ever…have I actually read an assignment. Not. Once. I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Spanish, Business Administration, and Secondary Education. Did I read the assigned chapters one through four for any week? Nope. I have a Master of Arts Degree in Special Education. Did I read the entire article assigned for that big exam? No…didn’t do that one either. Don’t get me wrong, I do my work. But I don’t learn by sitting down and reading an entire chapter or article. In fact, I’ll read a paragraph and have no idea what it said…so I’ll go back and read it again. Still no clue. I figured out how I learn…and that’s why I can keep going with my education when everyone thinks I’m crazy. I read parts of assignments and skim. I highlight. I make note cards. I have others read to me. Yes, I said that. I learn better when someone reads to me. It doesn’t make me worse or any less smart than anyone else…it makes me a different learner. Just like you. Just like him. Just like her.

I’m not done. When I study or write a paper, I have music blaring. I have “Friends” on in the background. My husband just shakes his head when I appear to be concentrating super hard on a sentence typing and I will bust a gut laughing at something that Rachel or Chandler just said (my two favorite characters). Jeremy says, “How on earth can you do that?” It’s my brain! I can double, triple, and quadruple task to no end! Lol…but I cannot concentrate on one thing at one time. Doesn’t happen. I like that about myself. I’m very random. I’m sure you can already see that. It can be annoying (sometimes I even annoy myself), but God made me this way. Diagnosed with ADHD? Yes…self-diagnosed. I am almost a doctor of Special Education; trust me, I know the disorder. I have it; and that’s okay. The key is to learn how to deal with it if it’s not diagnosed! Medications help many. Honestly, I like my ADHD. I get a lot done.

I am the perfect example of what is not happening in schools anymore. It can’t. Teachers can’t teach to my style of learning…there’s red tape everywhere. English, Reading, Social Sciences, Math, and Science are all assessed to the level that teachers have zero freedom. You may be thinking, “Oh, poor Bailey. What would you know about teaching these subjects? You’re a Special Education teacher.” Darn right I am! We SPED teachers are the family practitioners of education. We aren’t specialized in one area; we have to know a little bit about a lot of areas. That is why tutoring is a great fit for me. I’ve been in almost every type of junior high and high school classroom there is as either a co-teacher or a support for a student with a disability. My job, as a special educator, is to assist general educators in providing accommodations and tailoring instruction for students with disabilities. You can imagine how difficult this can be. Even with two teachers in the room, it isn’t easy. But it can be done! It takes planning time (wait…what’s that?…we’re always in meetings). It takes specialized training with follow-up (huh? Workshops that actually result in improvement?). It takes time to adjust materials and schedules (hold on…this is getting out of hand).

So this is why…none of this is happening. This is why I’m leaving. Education is not about students anymore. It is about what is easier because of so many “have tos”. We “have to” have a workshop about this. We “have to” budget for a new gym floor. We “have to” concentrate on teaching students the material on the standardized test. We “have to” only do what is necessary to keep us from getting in trouble.

Well here is my top 20 list of what we “HAVE TO” do…mine’s different from what we are told we “have to” do:

1. We HAVE TO recognize that every student learns differently.

2. We HAVE TO learn what students need. (Ask them…they’ll tell you how they learn best. And guess what? You just taught independence and respect for oneself without even trying)

3. We HAVE TO try different methods of instruction rather than relying on “what used to work”.

4. We HAVE TO make time to work together and make it about students.

5. We HAVE TO treat our educators with the respect that they deserve. (They have no motivation to do more…drained…overworked…underpaid…exhausted)

6. We HAVE TO realize that we don’t always have the right answers. (Look in other places, to other people…including parents, caretakers, other teachers)

7. We HAVE TO learn evidence-based strategies and employ them. (Most of the evidence-based strategies that I have learned about or tried have been very geared toward differentiated instruction…trying different methods than the typical talk and take notes type of teaching…they can be very fun…no wonder they actually work for students)

8. We HAVE TO find different ways of teaching that will help all kids learn. (It’s easy to teach the easy kids)

9. We HAVE TO focus on strengths of kids and stop constantly telling them what they are doing wrong! (This one is a must…focus on the positive. Yes, I get that we have to teach kids differently if they are misbehaving, but why is that always the first thing we notice?)

10. We HAVE TO take the time to learn what accommodations will help kids and figure out how to implement them DAILY! (Many students with disabilities require even more changes in the classroom…it’s not easy…teachers need time and support to sort out how to make it work)

11. We HAVE TO build the time and money in to supporting KIDS in their learning.

12. We HAVE TO recognize that while one environment is great for one learner, it may not be great for another. (It isn’t hard to allow a kid to listen to music while taking a test…oh I know…but what if they are cheating?!?!…You do realize that there are controls on most devices…have them available in your classroom so you have more control over what they are able to do)

13. We HAVE TO stop with this standardized testing testing testing. (It doesn’t help kids…at all.)

14. We HAVE TO give teachers more planning time with other teachers (even including students and their parents/guardians) to help one another.

15. We HAVE TO shift budgets to focus on creating an environment where individual learning styles are nurtured and encouraged.

16. We HAVE TO help kids learn how they learn.

17. We HAVE TO show kids that we care by being respectful of their needs and learning styles. (It doesn’t seem right to demand respect from them if we aren’t willing to give it back)

18. We HAVE TO learn to remove our own frustrations about education and remember that it is not the fault of our students.

19. We HAVE TO express what we see education becoming and try to change it!

20. We HAVE TO do the best we can for students in the situation we are in. (I’m working on moving up the ladder to try to do something about the governmental pressures and I know many are…but it won’t happen overnight. For now, we get to be the positive driving forces behind helping students learn the material they “have to” know in order to test well…but we can do our part in helping them learn it in their own ways. It’s a powerful position to be in…and one of the most important.)

Am I an expert on education? No. But I am a teacher. I am a parent. I am a student. I am a business owner. I am almost a doctor of education. Maybe I am an expert (at the very least…I’m trying to be). Maybe that’s the issue. We are allowing people to run education who have no experience what-so-ever with actually teaching. So take it or leave it, but I don’t like what education has become and I believe these are things that can be (need to be) done NOW to make the best of what we have!

Bottom line…make education about students again. It’s not about adults. It’s not about what’s easier. Make it about kids.