Diabetes Blog Week, Day 3, Language and Diabetes: There is an old saying that states, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." I'm willing to bet we've all disagreed with this at some point, and especially when it comes to diabetes. Many advocate for the importance of using non-stigmatizing, inclusive and non-judgmental language when speaking about or to people with diabetes. For some, they don't care, others care passionately. Where do you stand when it comes to "person with diabetes" versus "diabetic", or "checking" blood sugar versus "testing", or any of the tons of other examples? Let's explore the power of words, but please remember to keep things respectful.
I recently attended my school district's Appreciation Evening as an award recipient for 20 years of teaching. It's cliche to say that "time flies" but in this case, it is hard to believe I have been teaching for 2 decades. The realm of education is unique because educators are required by our state education departments to receive certain levels of education in specific amounts of time. Teachers never stop learning. 20 years of education have earned me Bachelor's Degrees in Early Childhood Education, Elementary Education, Health Education and Physical Education. Also, a Master's Degree in Elementary Education and most recently, National Board Certification. Geesh. This mama knows some stuff.
Let's continue...after a Master's Degree is earned, my district offers salary increases for hours beyond degrees, specifically +15 and +30 hours of continued education. There are many ways to earn these hours, including university hours or salary credit courses. Over time, teachers fulfill their hours in a medley of ways. In my opinion, some of the most rewarding were salary credit/adjunct classes taught by Dr. Richard Overfelt. He made me proud to be a teacher and I would leave his classes wanting to make a difference. It was him who shaped my school of thought (pun totally intended) on language: ALWAYS put the person first. He would say,
"You ARE NOT third grade teachers, you ARE teachers of students in third grade."
As an educator of 20 years, this has been the way I communicate. Even when I refer to people who have diabetes (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?!) I honor the person first. But, when it comes to me, I don't mind. Yes, I am a person who has diabetes. Therefore, I am a diabetic.
Looking in the proverbial mirror, I realize I am diabetic. I am a diabetic. I am not sure if there is even supposed to be an "a" in that sentence. My point is this...I am respectful and empathetic to others. But when it comes to my personal life, I would rather spend the time and energy on living my life in a healthy and happy way. Does this make me insensitive? Absolutely not. I am a "fixer" and choose to spend the energy on being happy.
Check vs. Test? Diabetic vs. Person with diabetes? Yes, these are all important debates. I hope we find a way to coexist and reach the ultimate goal of living happy, healthy lives as diabetics. Wait, as people with diabetes. Wait, as people who have diabetes. ;-)
You get the point. Word.