Relationships: The Sweetest Thing

My memory is unfailingly short, and today after a coffee outing with my ex high school Spanish teacher and adult language learners, my bitterness, resentment and frustration at my employment confusion tasted less sweet as I bit back tears. I should bake some apple crisp today, because it’s a new year. Lack of employment is not something to atone for. Lack of trying, to talk, to reach out, to construct relationships, my year has not wanted for these.

I never celebrated Rosh Hashanah as a child, nor as a young adult when my brother was discovering our Jewish roots. I read about it and I listened to him talk about it. But, I did nothing about it until I was living alone in Guatemala looking for both something unique about me that I could share, and trying desperately to feel connected to those with whom I should share the most in common across a lifetime despite the miles between us, my family.

I started small, offering candy to friends or sending out texts suggesting they treat themselves. I graduated slowly, as my living conditions in Guatemala improved with each subsequent job. I started simple, dusting an apple in cinnamon and sugar I blended myself by shaking a plate to more involved activities like baking a honey cake. What strikes me most at this time of year, when by college degree I should be well into a new school year is that despite the seemingly endless bitterness found in my choices for professional next steps, the relationships I have built around small acts of belonging and connection through professional knowledge this past year, are truly the sweetest thing.

As a Jew, I am certainly no expert. My mother died when I was ten; I had limited interaction with my maternal grandparents and grew up in rural Wisconsin practicing almost nothing except for vague memories of Hanukkah. And yet, I recognize the depth of connection through my own personal intent at baking unframed by expertise. This is also true of the puzzled together notion of expertise I have developed this past year around education and my resulting collegial relationships. There are many characteristics and practices that define me that are not very Jewish. There are many characteristics and practices that define my new professional relationships that are not very “teacher”, but I feel their impact no less. Below are some recent examples:

At a reading for my writer’s class, my writing instructor told me that she remembers when she exchanges pages with her own critique partner what it feels like to be in her students’ shoes. That was my reason for learning to garden, and to some extent, enrolling in the writing course.

At a lunch invitation made by an acquaintance working on a multicultural education program, we discussed not only how homogeneous groupings are unhelpful as a means to know and teach and include, but I was able to insert “teacher” as one of those identities.

My gym trainer runs a coaching/mentorship initiative so compelling that I sent her, among others, an article from my student centered coaching program about coaching and adult learners. We are also coauthoring an article proposed to National Educators of Young Children about her Storytime Yoga pilot.

I, myself, am able to construct conversations in a more positive manner with my family when seeing them through the adult learner lens. Connecting my teacher education to my own life is something very new, but previously unconsidered.

As I embark on yet another date that allows me to restart my year, the goal clearest to me is to remember my goal, which is stewardship of the relationships, the key ingredient and the heart of what matters. L'shanah tovah!

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