Every time I hear that word, it makes me flinch.
The other students, fifth graders, I was working with, noticed my reaction to one of their classmates using the word.
One was angry, he knew it wasn't okay to use that word.
The others wanted to know why. They honestly didn't know why it was wrong to use the "R" word. People use it so freely, so unabashedly, that they didn't understand.
It was an opportunity to show them why the word is hurtful, and why we shouldn't use it.
But it's not easy to explain.
"So, you guys know that technically, 'retarded' means slow, right?"
"And slow doesn't mean you never get something, right? Just that it may take you longer to get something."
I got some nods.
"So, say you're talking about a kid who is technically 'retarded' by medical terms - let's say the kid is 10. But maybe he's slower at developing than typical kids... so he gets what maybe a 5 year old would get. Did you understand when people were making fun of you at 5?"
I could see they were getting it by the looks on their faces.
"And by calling people 'retarded' when they do stupid things... you're basically saying that people that are slower at learning are just plain stupid. And they're not. They are just slower at picking up new stuff than an average person. And like I was saying, they get that they're being made fun of. And it hurts them."
It wasn't perfect. I feel like I could have done a better job. But for a small group of 5th graders, I think I actually made a difference.
Spread the Word to End the Word. They explain it WAY better than I did - watch the video: