Each year my students create a Tree of Jewish Life to explore what it means to be Jewish. We discuss the people in our community, traditions, and how the Jewish culture has an influence on their lives. We then have a debate about the list of what each value is; a root in the community, a branch out into everyday life, or the trunk that supports us and makes us stronger.
While looking at the student values, I began to think about what makes my life worth living. Just as people do around Thanksgiving and the holidays, I looked at what I'm thankful for. My family plays a very large role in my life. My mother is a strong woman who seems to be able to live through tough times and come out wiser and a better person. My sister can always make me laugh, even when I'm upset about something or I just want to be mad at the world. I hate when she does this but secretly love it. My friends help support me, and I them, and I admire them for their lust for life. I feel like a better person whenever I interact with them.
The Temple community has always been wonderful to me. I grew up in the Temple, learning the religion and making friends. Music became an important part of my life there, joining the Adult Choir with Dad and continued to sing up until present. I helped to pass on my education as a TA and now am in my third year of teaching 5th grade. My students have been amazing, sharing their new ideas and making me think differently about everything I had learned in the past. Many share the same spark I had while in school, wanting to find out more and see different ways of exploring our religion. I met them as students but I can see them as young teachers and friends. In a way I have turned into their Miss K., a person that they can talk to as a friend and trust as an adult. We can joke around and still respect each other.
A few years ago we had to write an essay of self discovery, a portrait of who we are. I wrote how I was a product of my education, family, religion, and cultural influences. I wrote how I wanting to be the rescued girl from a love story who could also take charge and save the world like a super hero. I wanted to live in the world that you would never grow old in, a world where magic existed and that with training I could use "the force". (Please hold the eye roll here) Someday I will post the essay on here for more giggles reading into my past picture of myself, and the new things I can add in today.
I guess where I'm trying to go with this is every year my students recreate a Tree of Life, and every year I add something new to mine. It's interesting to see that I can always add another branch into my life, another root to stabilize who I am and want to become.