Always appreciate what you have, turn to God for what you don't.
I've always had a soft spot in my heart for 7th and 8th graders. Junior high kids can definitely give me a run for my paycheck, but I enjoy their lessons in contradictions. They're all attitude on the outside; waiting for someone to love them on the inside. Want to be treated like adults and wanting to be told a lame joke at the same time. 12 and 13 year olds can come off as oblivious to the world while at the same posing moral dilemmas and questioning life issues most adults don't even think about.
As a former classroom teacher it was my job to help these students navigate life while being themselves. It was a challenge but I accomplished this through weekly journals. I posed a question and simply graded students on how well they defended their response. There was no right or wrong. There was nothing for me to disagree with. The students came to appreciate this and left me reading more honest answers than Aristotle or Socrates could have ever dreamed up.
I know. I know. Journal writing is a schoolkid's worst nightmare. It was a struggle for some but they did it anyway. The week I posed the questions "What are you greatful for? Where do you need latitude in life?" I had a 100% turn in rate.
When I left full time classroom teaching; being the glutton for punishment I am, I signed up to teach religion at my small-town country church. I asked for 7th and 8th graders.
7th and 8th graders are the same everywhere. They want to be heard and want their thinking challenged. In religion class I adopted my journal writing to the "Gratitude and Latitude List." It was small scale journal writing in a list form with a religious perspective. The Gratitude were things that we needed to give thanks to God for. The Latitude were things we needed to ask God to help us through or to accept us as we are. Some weeks the answers were obvious. The next they were so heartfelt and honest I couldn't believe they were written by the same 12 year old who came in snapping on her gum; testing me with the latest swear words.
As a classroom teacher and religion teacher I was doing what I do best; hoping I was making a difference.
I ran into a former student of mine earlier this week. The first thing he asked about was my very obvious baby belly. As I was telling him the story, he was listening intently. This student as an eighth grader was very intelligent, had a strong understanding of the important things in life but was rather reserved at the same time. Now as a junior in high school, he was a little taller, a little less awkward and a little more outspoken. When I finished with my story he said, "Miss. My thoughts are with you. Have you made your "Gratitude and Latitude List? I still do that sometimes when I'm worried about something."
After the shock wore off of a student remembering one simple assignment, I decided I should practice what I teach (or preach depending on who you ask).
In honor of every student of life who remembers a simple assignment; here is my Gratitude and Latitude List.
I am thankful for the strength to get through each day.
I am greatful to have access to some of the best medical care in the country.
I am happy to be surrounded by close friends and family who do anything for me
I am thankful for polka-dot wall decals that make my baby's room bright and cheery
I am greatful for the motherly intuition that keeps me fighting and hopeful.
I love baby kicks.
I love songs involving Big Green Tractors.
I appreciate my stockpile of chocolate chips.
Give me latitude because I'm not always as positive about the future as I could be.
Give me latitude because sometimes I fear the challenges ahead of me.
Give me latitude because sometimes 74 more days is a long wait.
Give me latitude with the aforementioned chocolate chips.
Give me latitude because sometimes I'm angry I don't have answers.
Give me latitude becuase I don't understand how people who don't want perfectly healthy beautiful babies receive them anyways.
It's the ebb and flow of gratitude and latitude that that gets us through everyday. Always be greatful but don't be ashamed to admit the latitude.