What Defines You
March 8, 2017
Two things define you: Your patience when you have nothing, and your attitude when you have everything.
When I moved to Massachusetts seven years ago, I had been a educator for many, many years. I thought I had a very clear idea of who I was as a educator and as a human being. I found that when you come to a new place everything about who you are gets shaken. Some things get shaken a little and others a lot. I once defined my move to Massachusetts as jumping off a cliff.
The year I was hired as a literacy specialist, the literacy specialist I replaced had already been on a maternity leave for a semester. Only one other teacher was hired at the school that year and all of the other teachers were well established. Everyone was lovely to me, but I still had a lot to learn about their school culture, Massachusetts pedagogy, and their ‘ways’.
So I rolled up my sleeves and volunteered to help with just about anything. If someone needed help in anyway, I helped. I made copies. I dropped by rooms and helped with writing, independent reading, reading workshop, science, social studies, and math. If someone needed a book, I found it. But what came to define me and to change everything, was cookies.
I surprised you, didn’t I? Yes, that first year I was homesick and one of the things I missed most was Christmas. Most particularly Christmas cookies. With just two of us here, there wasn’t anyone to eat the cookies I wanted to bake. I began December 1st that year and for over three weeks I baked cookies every day and brought them to work. People started to notice. They began to tell me about their favorite cookies. They asked for recipes.
When December came to a close, our psychologist asked me what I was going to bake after the holidays. Confused, I said I hadn’t planned on baking anything. She said she had read a book, All Cakes Considered. In this book, Melissa Gray baked a cake every week and brought it to NPR. I had baked cakes before, but was not an expert by any stretched. But for whatever reason, I thought, why not? So Cake Monday was born.
Nearly every Monday for the last seven years, I’ve baked. In the first three or four years, it was always cakes. Later, I baked a lot of different things. Different is the key word. I have not repeated a Cake Monday recipe in the last seven year. The December cookies are filled with standards and personal favorites of our staff, but Cake Monday is a surprise every week.
Cake Monday defines me. People introduce me to new people as the person who bakes for us every Monday. It’s ok. Those cakes and cookies and scones created a relationship. They opened doors. They created trust. So I say, I am fine with being defined by baked goods. They are sweet. They can be complicated. They comfort people. Sometimes they are just what you need. I hope I am too.
I am participating in the Slice of Life challenge to write and publish a post every day in March.
Slice of Life is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. I thank them for the community they provide. Read more slices here.