Tag Archives: work

Kiss My Grits


Next week is fall break, and never have I seen or known a group of people who need a vacation more than the women I work with (including myself).  We’ve survived the first two months of school but even though those weeks have been hard, it isn’t the sole cause of our exhaustion.

I left work today in tears.  I refuse to let them fall because I kind of feel silly about crying over work.  But here’s the thing…I bet I’m not the only one who feels like crying.  Once again, we were reminded that we’re not doing good enough.  It’s a gray cloud that hangs over our heads or sometimes drifts away on a child’s laughter only to be brought back again by a bureaucrat that reminds us that we’re not worth a raise, or praise, or any kind of positive attention.

There’s this part of me that wants to say kiss my grits just like Flo did when I was a child watching Alice.  I want to smack my gum and scream to the universe that I am worth praise now and then, and I am worth a raise no matter what some ridiculous growth measure says about my school.  To the people out there sucking the joy out of education – kiss my grits!

I work with incredible people.  Teachers who take tiny kindergarteners and somehow, someway change them from babies to students.  When they scream for their mothers or refuse to walk in the hall, they endure and they teach.  I work with second grade teachers who stop their instruction to console a weeping child who saw a homeless woman passed out by a creek and wrongfully believed it was his mother.  This teacher held him while he cried and stayed with him until the police discovered and reassured him that it wasn’t his mother after all.

I work with people who spend their own money buying supplies for children, who feed hungry babies each day out of their own pockets.  I work with people who defend bullied children, who clean up after them when they are sick, who give every ounce of themselves until when they go home at night, there’s nothing left in them to give their families.

These people are teachers (and assistants, custodians, secretaries, principals, and nurses), and we work hard and we care.  But our number isn’t big enough.  We’re not worthy enough.

So they say.  But that’s not what I say, and it’s not what I see every single day.

When I want to cry…like I still want to right now…I try to think about my students.  They are the only things that keep me going day in and day out.  I think about the little girl in my room who is way too smart for her own good.  I promise, she could run my room with her eyes shut.  She has memorized my routines, my gestures…everything.  It’s kind of spooky in a cute, invasion of the body snatchers way.

I think about the little fellow who hugged me goodbye the other day.  He said, “Goodbye, Mrs. Wack-a-wee.  I hope you look pretty tomorrow.  Really pretty.”  I glanced down to my shirt and wondered if I looked especially bad right then!

I think about a shy little girl who ran up to me on the playground and said, “Mrs. Rackley, Mrs. Rackley…this boy just said the “C” word.”  I broke out into an all body sweat , and then I had her whisper into my ear what she’d heard.  Thankfully, it was only kill.  I know, I know…it’s not a nice word, and yes, she used her phonetic skills to tell me the beginning sound, but…whew…it was a relief, I promise you.

I think about the shy boy with impeccable manners who came up to my desk and said, “I didn’t know cousins could be different colors.”  I told him they could, that I had cousins a different color, too, and then I told him that God made everybody (and I said God at school…I know that’s bad, too…but it was the moment and I don’t care).  His smile was so innocent, so sweet.  I think he realized in that moment that people can be and are very different.

Every teacher has a million stories like these.  We deal with living, breathing people every day.  It’s what we do whether someone says we’re a zero or a ten, a one or a five.  I finally don’t feel like crying anymore…that’s what thinking of my students does to me…but I still want to scream to the world in my loudest, best southern drawl, “Mel, kiss my grits!”

My Daddy

Daddy and Ginger - 2010

Daddy and my stepmother, Ginger – 2010

Forty-three years ago, my daddy (and yes, I still call him daddy) began working for a large grocery chain.  He was very young, extremely broke, newly married with a child on the way, and just barely a high-school graduate.  Suddenly at eighteen, he was responsible for a wife and baby that would arrive come September.  The year was 1969, and gone were any chances of going to college.  Any dreams he may have had for his future were replaced by the demands of necessity.  Necessity demanded that he make enough money to support a family.  Necessity became the commander of his life.

My mother always told me that their parents had politely and succinctly told them that the day they graduated from high school, they were on their own.  The words, “you made your bed, now sleep in it,” were part of her story.  It was the time, it was simply the way it was.  It was the sixties in the south, and youthful dreams quickly took a backseat to reality.

My parents were so young but they were never young to me.  They were parents regardless of their age.  They fed, clothed, filled the den with toys on Christmas morning, disciplined when we needed it, instilled great manners, but more than anything, they loved.  My parents had abundant love for us given how very young they were.

Daddy - early 1970's

Daddy – early 1970’s

Through moves, through divorce, through remarriage and more children, my daddy stayed on with this original company.  He worked long, hard hours every one of the forty-three years he served this business.  Knees were injured, hernias erupted, but with a tenacity many young people have never heard of or experienced, he endured.  He stayed, he worked for every cent he made, and he never lost his ability to love.

Today, my daddy is retiring.  Today is his last full day as a working man!  I guess starting out young gives one the opportunity to work for a very long time.  The true blessing is even after working for forty-three years, daddy is still young enough to enjoy a long, thriving retirement.  My celebratory wish is that he enjoys every single minute of it!  Thank you, daddy, for giving your all, for holding on even when circumstances seemed insurmountable, and for never losing your ability to love and the joy in your heart .  Those things will be your legacy to us all.

Daddy and Hunter

Daddy and Hunter