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Teachers, Count Your Blessings

Jordan Catapano

Thanksgiving is a great time during the school year to read about the pilgrims, draw turkeys, and get a few extra days of rest. But there’s one essential task all teachers should perform during this all-American holiday: Count their blessings.

Teachers by nature are intensely focused on getting their students to gain the most valuable lessons from every opportunity through the year. This includes Thanksgiving time, where students are often led through a variety of cultural and historical activities that ultimately teach them how to show an appreciation for what they have in life. But as much as teachers focus on passing along these values to students, they can often overlook their own giving of thanks for the best aspects of their profession.

It’s important that instructors take time to identify those elements of teaching they find most satisfying. After all, there’s plenty to get frustrated over and overwhelmed by. The days get darker, the stacks of homework get higher, and students might not be showing the improvement or maturity we feel they ought to by this point. Thanksgiving arrives at the perfect moment during the year to pause and reflect on what’s important.

So take some time, right now, and think about what you’re thankful for. It’ll do you good.

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Here are some areas you can think about that might offer some positives for you to reflect on:

  • Have particular students improved in any areas?
  • What were some of your best lessons this year so far?
  • Have any colleagues been especially helpful or supportive?
  • What supplies or resources have you been able to take advantage of this year?
  • What positive interactions have you enjoyed with any students?
  • What’s something new you tried?
  • Have you received any positive words from administrators, colleagues or parents?
  • What’s one area you’ve begun to improve in?
  • What’s something you’re looking forward to?

It’s easy to get down as a teacher. It’s easy to look at what’s not happening, what we don’t have, or where we’ve failed. We all have plenty of down moments throughout the year. But we don’t have to let them get to us; no matter the situations or shortcomings, we can use the positives to build us up. So use this time near Thanksgiving to focus on your positives. Focus on the up moments. Focus on what can encourage you to continue strong throughout the rest of the year.

One further step you can take is to tell someone -- or many someones -- about these positives you’re grateful for. After you identify some of the things that have been an encouragement to you, share them with your colleagues. Even share them with your students. When you do, you’ll notice that your positivity and gratitude will spread. You’ll feel even more encouraged now that someone else is sharing in your giving of thanks, and it will be compounded as those others in turn follow your lead and continue to share the positives!

So this Thanksgiving, don’t neglect to count your own blessings. While we all focus on getting our students to understand and partake in the holiday’s festivities, we don’t want to miss our own opportunity to let the power of a grateful spirit impact our year.

What are you grateful for this school year? Tell us in the comments below, and pass on the blessings!

Jordan Catapano is an English teacher at Conant High School in a Chicago suburb. In addition to being National Board Certificated, he also sits as the District Leader for the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and serves as a school board member for a private school. Jordan also owns ACTWritingTips.com, a website created to give students additional support for the writing section of the ACT.