I stood in the kitchen, washing the dishes with Nick last night with tears in my eyes.
I was reminiscing on my elementary school experience.
What? Who even remembers that? I can already hear some of my closet friends laughing and rolling their eyes at me.
"One time in the kindergarten..." Nick always mocks.
"Anyone ever notice that half the stories Kama tells are from when she was eleven?" My best friend always teases.
My elementary school was probably the best one on earth. Am I biased? Honestly, I don't even think so because I certainly wouldn't say this about the one I went to in Mexico, or my middle school, high school, and definitely not my college.
I was lucky enough to get the foundations of my education in a quiet, little public school surrounded by mountains and trees, full of teachers who genuinely cared.
We sang, created and danced. We learned to care for nature and the environment as well as our peers. This little school, painted peach in the forest, gave me a quintessential childhood.
There are many people that I owe my heart to that made these years so precious to me, but there are a few shining gems that stand out. These are the teachers that brought tears to my eyes in my kitchen in Puerto Rico at twenty-five years old:
Mrs. Ross. My first grade teacher. She was grieving. Her husband had passed in a tragic mountain biking accident. Yet she showed up every single day with compassion, grace and most importantly, vulnerability. In sharing herself fully, we were able to open, trust and be.
She taught us the importance of compassionate communication. She'd sit with us sit in a circle and explain the importance of communication in general, and the value and efficacy of doing it in a kind way. We learned to communicate our feelings and why what triggered them by making sure we always started our tougher sentences with "I feel." She called them “I Messages.”
She changed the way I would communicate for the rest of my life.
Ms. Lackey. My second grade teacher. She was a cool surfer girl from Southern California. She was relaxed, stable and warm. I wanted to be just like her.
She taught us about positive affirmations and authenticity. She made sure that everything we did was fully our own. Much of what she taught us was simply through her own example. Her grounded nature allowed us to take root and grow.
Mrs. Tanguay. My fifth grade teacher. She was an old hippie who showed us her soul. Teaching was her dharma. She cared more than anyone I've ever known has cared about anything.
On our first day of class with her, she took a deep breath, leaned gently against a stool and told us she was nervous too. She told us what helped her feel better on days like this and welcomed us to check in and do the same - or better yet, to do what worked for us. She welcomed our autonomy.
She empathized with our ever-changing pre-pubescent emotions and gave us the grounds to explore our freedom and independence. She taught us mature lessons and held us accountable in our responsibility. She pushed us to bloom, while she made us feel safe. In a world of fitting in and doing what you're "supposed to," she taught us to do what feels good to us and that only we know ourselves best.
Aside from the memories and the soft, warm feeling I get in my heart and belly when I think back on these simple times, I realize how profoundly these teachings and people impacted me. Ironically, though of a different kind, I'm a teacher now too. Maybe somewhere, deep down, I was looking to make people feel the way they made me feel. I never knew I'd become a teacher, but if I am half the teacher these women were to me, I'd have them to thank for that, and for simply, who I am.