Any teacher could tell you that a classroom is a room full of stories. My grandmother, Mawmaw, was a 5th grade teacher in the same district I teach in now. Some of the novels that used to be in her classroom are now in mine. I grew up hearing the stories of her room. The combs she kept in her desk for the child whose hair was never washed. The snacks for the child who was hungry. The life lessons for the child that needed some tough love. I listened to those stories not really understanding what they meant, until years later I found myself with students of my own.
In my own classroom, I learned that being a teacher means being a support system, a safe place to land, a sounding board, a figure of accountability, a shoulder to cry on, a question asker, and most importantly a listener. Through listening as a teacher, I’ve become a story keeper. Whether my students’ stories break my heart or fill with me energy, their words stay with me long after the dismissal bell rings. Their stories find me in between passing periods, in the middle of a lesson, in their writing, during lunch. Some stories are blurted out at random, while others are told as they pull up a chair asking, “hey miss, can I talk to you?”
Sometimes I’m so tired, the introvert part of me wants nothing more than stone cold silence. Sometimes I have my own stuff that I’m dealing with and zero capacity to deal with anyone else’s stuff. In those moments I can feel what we refer to at home as a “bad-A-tude” coming on.
Within the last year, a certain daughter of mine was whining her way through her math homework. Like the kind of whining that makes you want to put your own head in the toilet and flush a couple of times just to escape for a second. I was on the verge of losing it when the hubs stepped in, looked her in the eyes, and told her she had a choice to make: she could do math with a bad-a-tude or a good-a-tude, but either way the work was getting done. Bless her heart, she tried to protest and argue that she didn’t have a bad-a-tude, but how can you say that without laughing? It wasn’t long before we were all giggling with good-a-tudes, math homework was completed with minimal whining, and this mama’s heart was filled with G-R-A-T-I-T-U-D-E for my people.
So on those school days when I just feel done, I try to pack the bad-a-tude away and say YES. Yes, I’m here for you. Yes, I’m listening. Yes, you’re important to me. Many times, I’m silently sending up a “help me – give me strength – show me what you need me to do” prayer in the same moment. And that’s when the magic happens. Little miracles of mutual gratitude that change and grow hearts in moments of vulnerability. Whether it’s funny chisme, hurt feelings, life questions, or truly difficult situations, we learn from each other in talking about adversity, hope, humor, and perseverance. Gratitude changes everything, even the bad-a-tudes.
And on such days, after gratitude has won and I need to recharge in my own safe space, there’s nothing more comforting than yoga pants, food, and family. I love being in my kitchen, recapping the day with my husband, a child zooming around on her scooter, a teenager sitting at the table doing homework, and a schnoodle sniffing around to see what she can snag off the counter. On these crazy weeknights I don’t want to spend forever cooking, so I try to make quick meals packed with flavor. I have several food blogs that I turn to in these moments, and Kale Junkie is one that never disappoints. Simple. Healthy. Delicious. Nicole’s broccoli shrimp ramen was GRATITUDE IN A BOWL the other night. I drizzled sriracha on top because we love all things spicy over here, and thanked God for good food, family, and the young people I get to listen to every day.