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Teaching Sitting Pretty:

A sample of one of Rebekah’s classes: Rebekah’s Sample Syllabi

Rebekah’s Pedagogical Approach: Her Philosophy on Teaching 

Disability Resource Center

Hours of Operation for Fall and Spring:

  • MMC: 9 am – 5 pm
  • BBC: 8 am – 5 pm

Hours of Operation for Summer and Semester Breaks

  • MMC: 9am - 5pm 
  • BBC: 9 am – 5 pm

DRC Resources:

Topic Breakdown of The Course

  • Course introduction & Intro to Common Reading

    As a means to introduce students to each other and to the course material lead a 5-10 minute discussion reviewing the book. The discussion can be general impressions the students had of the book, and then introduce how the text can relate to the topics discussed in the course.

  • Mental Health

    Be it issues relating to self-confidence and the way she views herself to her worrying about her performance at work to stress regarding her health and finances, it's clear that there are a number of stressors Rebekah experiences throughout her life. At one point, these stressors even lead to her rushing into marriage with her first husband, Sam so she'd be able to get onto his insurance.

    Many of Rebekah's insecurities stem from not seeing herself being reflected in various forms of media. When disabled people are portrayed in media, they're rarely allowed the full breadth of humanity and are instead relegated to various roles (see Chapter 4: The Real Citizens of Life, pg. 116). Reading this not only raises the question of what messages are we consuming but how do these messages affect us. How can we go about analyzing and deconstructing these messages?

    Rebekah's story also shows that Mental Health and physical health can often overlap. At one point, she's incredibly anxious about her ability to access healthcare once she ages out of her parent's healthcare benefits and eventually has a bit of a health crisis, potentially as a result.

    In Class: Have students list some of the changes they’ve experienced as they’ve transitioned to FIU. Once the list has been formed, discuss what impact these changes have had on them, if any. Let students know what resources are offered at FIU (e.g., Counseling and Psychology Services (CAPS) and Victim Empowerment and the Healthy Living Program (HLP), and that they should not be afraid or ashamed to use them to help them cope and stay mentally healthy. Another topic to include in the discussion is about access to the Disability Resource Center (DRC).

  • Time Management

    As mentioned in Chapter 6: Feminist Pool Party, Rebekah attends a panel at a conference and notices that none of the women there can fully answer questions about work-life balance and instead solely focus on work, much to Rebekah's shock.

     This raises the question, if students are focusing only on a single part of their lives at the expense of the other aspects of their lives, are they managing their time well? What are ways to plan for more of a work-life balance? Are there ways to figure out how certain tasks and routines can increase productivity instead of decreasing it?

    In Class: Discuss with students about ways in which they can cultivate a good work-life balance. Have them brainstorm ways in which they can manage their other responsibilities such as work and family, along with school. Also lead a discussion on what it means to value your time, and how to manage it based on the value we each assign to the time we have.

  • Stress Managment

    Some of the things that stressed Rebekah out the most, as seen in Sitting Pretty, are concerns about her health and her desire to show that she can be a productive member of society by working hard at her job. Between trying to teach students about the nuances of disability and making her way to the cafeteria to attempt to have lunch with her coworkers on a daily basis, Rebekah needed a day or two to heal from the stress placed on her body. Because of this, she often feels guilty about needing to take days off work. At times, these stressors had physical effects such as the development of cysts between her vertebrae and UTIs that need to be treated with pain medications and steroid injections. This highlights the importance of mitigating stress and developing healthy coping strategies.

    Some of the various stressors in Rebekah's life include, managing her health and finding health care, her career and whether her students were understanding the concepts she was trying to teach, tending to her relationships, and ableism/ ableist thinking in general.

    In Class: Discuss stressors with students and how they can impact their transition to FIU. The transition to college can be stressful for many first-year students, especially those who may, like Rebekah, be struggling with finances, familial relationships, cultural identity, and making friends.

    Have students list the stressors in their lives, rank them and their physical reactions to them, if they have any. Have students take things like their setting and situation (for example, at home, early morning with music playing in the background or on the bus in the afternoon as they scroll through Instagram) into account when developing their lists. Once that’s done, have students come up with ways to cope with these different stressors, including things like joining clubs and organizations at FIU to get involved, make friends, and create healthy outlets for stress (e.g., gym, aromatherapy, massage on-campus through Healthy Living).

  • Relationships

    Perhaps one of the biggest themes Rebekah refers to throughout Sitting Pretty are her various relationships to both people and her own body. From a young age, Rebekah was wary of making friends because she didn't want to feel like a burden to other people. At some point in time, she was able to find Bertie, her friend and former roommate, who didn't make Rebekah feel as though she was a burden.

    In terms of romantic relationships, Rebekah marries Sam and then divorces him because they weren't compatible with one another. While he did seem to care about her, Rebekah had no romantic feelings toward him and instead saw him as a brother. While Rebekah was coming to terms with how she felt about Sam throughout their relationship, there were points in time where it seemed as though Sam was only doing certain things out of a sense of obligation, as opposed to communicating with her to work things out (for example, when he tried to carry Rebekah through a cave).

    In the period between divorcing Sam and meeting Micah, Rebekah learned how to enjoy her time by herself and figured out what she liked so she could then bring it into the next relationship.

    Rebekah had to communicate with Micah to figure out how exactly to make their relationship not just work but make it their own.

    In Class: Discuss with students some of Rebekah’s relationships, and how their own relationships will play a role in their transition to college and beyond. It is important to establish the difference between good and bad relationships and how they can affect people both positively and negatively. Have students note the things they value within a relationship and when they know when a relationship has run its course. Remind students to be true to themselves and have them focus on who is on their success team. To prepare students to write their essay, also have them discuss themes from the book (as a class or in small groups). Here is a list of some themes in Sitting Pretty:

    • Body Image
    • Kindness
    • Resilience
    • Relationships
    • Representation
    • Inequality
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Forgiveness
    • Perception
    • Empowerment
    • Expectations
    • Opportunity
    • Independence
    • Identity Self-Worth
    • Sacrifice
    • Family
    • Self-Acceptance
    • Strength
    • Education
    • Isolation
    • Mental Health
    • Inclusivity
    • Belonging
  • Common Reading

    In Class: Have students discuss what they wrote about in their essays as well as other things they took away from the book. This is a great opportunity for students to see the commonalities they have with each other, share about themselves, and use their critical thinking skills.

  • Life Skills Wrap Up

    Because Rebekah was the only disabled person in her home, she often had to figure things out by herself. That said, she had to do research into what resources were available to her, keep track of how they were used and what department she had to go to.

    Not only did she have to contact other people about her housing and her finances, both personal and for school, at one point, she even had to make sure she had enough money to pay the state back for overpaying her benefits.

    Ultimately, Rebekah had to do research, had to call, and connect with other people and keep track of all of this while still in school and pursuing her Doctoral degree.

    In Class: As students learn to navigate through college, they will also need to learn about the various resources they need to tap into in order to make the most out of their college experience. Have students list their goals and then have them figure out what steps they would take and who they would need to talk to. If possible, see if they can use the resources that the university provides.

  • 21st Century Skills

    Rebekah’s Instagram account (@sittingpretty) led to her writing this book. On this account, she was able to use her voice to express her opinions and inform others about her experiences as a disabled woman. Not only was she able to give other people insight into what it's like to be her, she was able to open up a number of opportunities by using social media responsibly.

    While the various forms of social media make it easier for people to tell their stories, it's incredibly important to learn how to do so responsibly and in a way that is constructive instead of destructive.

    In Class: Have students pick an issue that affects them or the world around them and discuss how this may impact them. Discuss how they would talk about it with others in person and online and the ways in which social media can be used as a tool that could benefit them or hurt them in the future.

  • Creativity

    In Sitting Pretty, Rebekah provides several prompts and examples of how to go about making the world a better place. In one example, she had to figure out how exactly romantic gestures would work with her husband (Chapter 2: An Ordinary Unimaginable Love Story) and in another, she wonders what the world would be like if bar, bank and cafe counters weren't so high that they essentially erased her from existence (Chapter 1: What’s the Problem).

    In Class: Discuss with students how thinking creatively can help them both in challenging situations as well as in their everyday life in college. Have students think creatively about potential issues others outside of their communities may face as well as potential solutions to those problems.

  • Collaboration

    Throughout her entire life, Rebekah struggled to find the balance between wanting to be independent and needing help with certain things. Not only did she have to work with the people around her when it came to things like going up stairs and entering certain venues, but she had to know when and how to ask for help from others.

    Another example of Rebekah collaborating with others is when her students were engaging with her course material. While she put in work to revamp the course and make it more accessible for her students to engage with, her students worked hard to understand what she was saying and make connections between her lessons and their own lives. Not only did the comments and connections they made fuel discussions, but it made the class more welcoming and informative for all those involved.

    In Class: Throughout their time in college, students will need to collaborate with others, teachers and peer mentors included, in order to persevere through hard times or to gain access to opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise. Have students discuss the importance of collaboration and potential areas where they are looking for support. Remind students not to be afraid to ask others for help (financial, academic, social, etc.). Discuss mentoring opportunities at the university like connecting with Peer Mentors, attending on campus professional development events or even reaching out to their professors.

  • Design Thinking

    Throughout the entirety of Sitting Pretty, Rebekah presents several issues that affect everyone, disabled or not, (for example, aging and the varying needs that come from it) and uses parts of the design thinking process (empathizing and defining) as a means of highlighting these issues and encouraging people to work together to come up with a more inclusive world.

    In Class: Have students think about the ways in which design thinking can be used by organizations and programs promoting awareness and education of issues relating to some of the themes explored in Sitting Pretty, such as awareness, ableism, and accessibility. Students can identify something specifically at the university.

  • Opportunity/Course Wrap Up

    Opportunity: Though she was initially uncertain about it, Rebekah decided to go into teaching when the opportunity was presented to her. Although it wasn't exactly what she'd expected and there were times when work left her feeling drained, she ultimately found it to be a rewarding experience.

    In Class: Have students discuss some of the opportunities and possibilities they would have pursued had it not been for certain obstacles. Alternatively, students can also discuss the opportunities they were given as well as the steps they took to receive them.

    Course Wrap Up: Because of her background and the way in which she grew up, Rebekah has a very different perspective on life. Her story not only gives readers insight into her perspective and some of the issues that people who are disabled in multiple ways, but it highlights the story of resilience and perseverance, and demonstrated use of 21st century skills for success.

    In Class: Have students reflect about their concerns they had when they first began the course vs. where they are now. Do they still have the same concerns as they did at the beginning? How are they feeling about the rest of their college experience?

Activities for Teaching

Response Cards

  • Give each student an index card. Ask them to briefly write down their questions, thoughts, comments, etc. and have them turn in their cards for discussion.

 Group Discussions

  • Have students pair up or get in small groups to talk about the book, the current topics review in class, and how it relates to their current experiences as a student at FIU.

 Word Clouds

  • Have students submit key words describing their thoughts on the book and talk about the most reoccurring words. (students can use Poll Everywhere or Mentimeter for this activity)

 Teach the Class

  • Pick a theme(s) relating to the common reading book and have students teach their peers about themes in the book.

 Journal Writing

  • At the beginning of every new chapter, have students jot down a few lines of their experiences at FIU and how they might relate to Reyna’s story.