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“Sometimes  I  feel  like  I  am  living  on  a  different  star  from  the  one  I  am  used  to calling home.  It  has  not  been  a  steady  progression.  I  had  to  examine,  in  my dreams  as  well  as  in  my  immune-function  tests,  the  devastating  effects  of overextension.  Overextending  myself  is  not  stretching  myself.  I  had  to  accept how difficult it is to monitor the difference. Necessary for me as cutting down on sugar. Crucial. Physically. Psychically. Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare."

-- Audre Lorde. A Burst of Light and Other Essays


• One of Puente’s fundamental beliefs is that we teach to the whole student, seeing them as they are and meeting them where they happen to be. This includes teaching students who are often learning to find balance of body, mind, and spirit amongst ongoing personal and systemic challenges. Health and wellness is not only an acceptable topic but sometimes becomes a necessary place to pause when students are experiencing high levels of stress, trauma, or grief. • The texts in this chapter are mostly focused on mental health, bodies, disability justice, spirituality, and the experiences of people in communities of color with some pieces specific to the impact of the pandemic. The writers in this section show us the power of survival across intersecting traumas and stressors. Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, by Erica Sanchez is a full length novel with a strong female lead who demonstrates the struggle, and ultimately the power, of navigating these intersections.  • The bottomline is to provide students with tools, information and language that supports them as they navigate their own journeys with mental health, body acceptance, disability justice, and spirituality. Materials in this section can be used to shape an entire course, unit, or mini-lesson to address acute issues that may rise in your cohort.

Key Term / Definition

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha defines Healing Justice:


“My definition of healing justice is inherently anti-ableist and centering of disabled people's genius, and it places healing justice in opposition to colonial ideas of what and who count as “real healers'' or “real healing.” Disabled wisdom challenges the entire western colonial ableist idea that a body is either perfectly able-bodied, or broken and useless. Instead, healing justice centres disabled wisdom that does indeed want access to medicines, adaptive technology, and other things that improve our energy, mobility, or immune systems, but also believes sick and disabled and mad and neurodivergent bodies are a normal part of the continuum of being human, full of wisdom, cripskills, adaptability, and cripscience.”

Learning Objectives

These pieces have been selected as a way for students to: 

  • Explore the differences between dominant narratives of health and wellness and the true meanings of self-care and community care

  • Explore topics often downplayed or stigmatized in BIPOC communities

  • Deepen students’ understanding of mental health topics, resources, and tools that will serve them and their communities beyond the classroom

  • Engage in reading and writing that encourages empathy and self-reflection 

Essential and Guiding Questions

  • How is health and wellness defined? What does it include? 

  • What are ableism and fatphobia? How can we work together to create a world that is free of judgment and harm for fat and disabled people in our communities?

  • How does power and privilege impact a person’s quality of life? 

  • What social and systemic factors impact a person’s level of physical, mental, and spiritual health? 

  • What are the various ways that BIPOC communities have found justice and healing? 

  • What role does culture and art play in the strength and wellness of our communities?

  • What are the differences between self-care and community care?

Suggested Activities

  • Ask students to give definitions and examples of their idea of “self-care.” Ask them why they believe self-care is important. Then, as a class, spend time reading and discussing this article on the limits of self-care and  this article on the importance of community care. Lead a discussion with your students on the differences between self-care and community care. To close, ask your students to write a list of activities they would like their community to provide to them, and a list of activities they can do to provide care to their communities. You may frame this as a classroom-focused activity (i.e. the community in question is everyone in the classroom, and the goal is to learn how to support each other throughout the school year) or you may frame it with a broader scope by asking students to consider their communities outside the classroom as well. (MS, HS, CC)

  • Have students bring in meaningful items for a nondenominational classroom altar, following the themes in Ariana Brown’s poem “Curanderismo” using this lesson plan. (MS, HS, CC)

  • Ask students to spend some time thinking about their younger selves. Pick a specific age and ask them to write down what they were like at that age, including their favorite foods, movies, people, and activities. Ask them to pick one word that describes how they felt at that age. Then ask them to imagine their adult selves in the future and respond to the same prompts. Once students have a clear vision of both their younger and future selves, have them write a letter to their younger self and a letter to their older self. Explain that this is an act of recognition and self-care—that one of the most powerful things we can do for ourselves is take the time to see and honor ourselves. If possible, have students respond to the following questions: (MS, HS, CC)

    • How will I protect my younger self?

    • How will I honor the needs of my younger self?

    • What kind of person do I want to be in the future?

    • What kind of relationship do I want to have with myself in the future?

  • De-stress activity box: Bring an empty shoebox to class. Spend some time asking students to come up with a short list of fun, calming, or restful activities that only take 5 minutes and can be done safely in class. (Examples: playing heads up seven up, guided breathing exercises, standing up and stretching, musical chairs, everyone whispers the lyrics to a popular song, talent showcase from one student, walk 3 laps around the classroom, quick dance session, etc.). Write the list of activities on small pieces of paper and put them in the box. Tell students that once a week, or after stressful moments in class, one person can pick an activity from the box for the whole class to do to relieve stress. (MS, HS, CC)

  • Dedicate a class session to helping your students understand the spoon theory from disability studies using this Spoon Theory Classroom Activity (MS, HS, CC)

  • Spend some time as a class reflecting on the pleasures of life and how our bodies let us enjoy them. Make a list of fun, enjoyable activities, places, foods, music, etc. Ask students to write a love letter or thank you letter to their bodies for allowing them to experience the beautiful parts of life, despite the hardships. (Sidenote: This is a useful prompt for discussing body image, mental health, and disability. Disabled students and trauma survivors may need to express complicated feelings about their relationship to their bodies--assure your students that it is okay if they have complicated feelings about their bodies and what they have experienced, and it is okay if they need to express those thoughts, too.) (MS, HS, CC)

  • Warm-up activity: When students walk into class, have this activity written on the board for them to complete in their notebooks. This can be a daily, weekly, or one-time activity. (MS, HS, CC)

    • How do I feel right now?

    • How will I honor my needs today?

    • How can I be a good friend today?

  • Spend a week on building self-care practices using the Teen Self-Care Planning resource, including six days’ worth of lesson plans and worksheets. (MS, HS, CC)

Text Selections



• Quindrie Press When I Was Me: Moments of Gender Euphoria (comics) (MS, HS, CC)

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