By Teachers, For Teachers
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, this point of the school year is the perfect time to take a moment and reflect on what we’re grateful for. It’s easy amidst the pace and stress of the school year to take what we have for granted and complain. It’s tempting to attribute all our success and happiness to ourselves. It’s typical to block out the bigger picture of where we are and how we got there as we focus on each individual day’s minutiae.
So, first and foremost, I’m thankful for a holiday that reminds me to pause and have a heart of gratitude. After all, as they say, it’s not happy people who are thankful, but thankful people who are happy.
Here are what makes my top list of things I’m thankful for as a teacher.
I have a long line of teachers who shared their passions, expertise, and encouragements with me. To them, I am grateful for the steady doses of wisdom and confidence they imparted.
From the third grade teacher who jokingly hung me by my shoelaces when I talked back, to the scowling algebra teacher who refused to let me get by without working my hardest, to the brilliant and intimidating sophomore year English teacher who introduced me to the world of ideas, to the college professor who demonstrated that devoting an entire career to English grammar was in fact pure joy. To these teachers I am grateful for their showcasing the joys of learning, the importance of hard work, and the thrill of success.
Who are the teachers you’re grateful for?
Co-workers are often like family. We can’t choose who we work with, and regardless of circumstances, we must show up each day and commit ourselves to the important work set before us. I am particularly grateful for all my colleagues whom I work with in my department, my school, and my district.
I have learned over the past several years that I often don’t have to look very far past my own classroom to find all kinds of experts. Tapping into the resources of my peers has opened up treasure stores of knowledge, experience, wisdom, and practice. My colleagues share abundantly, and their high standard for competence, growth, and dedication inspires me.
And beyond my coworkers, I’m grateful to engage with members of my Professional Learning Network (PLN). Not only do I benefit from a multitude of physically proximate colleagues, but I have been able to tap into the minds of thousands of other talented teachers from across the world through social media. For the social media tools I’ve used and for the teachers I’ve connected with through them, I am grateful.
No teacher’s list of things they’re grateful for would be complete without students on it. I’m enormously grateful for my students, this year and in previous years. First of all, they put up with my idiosyncrasies. They laugh at my horrible jokes. They put their faith in my instruction and requirements. And they reward my efforts with kindness and gratitude years after they’ve left my classroom.
But beyond those, I’m grateful for the way students inspire me. I’m grateful for how their own challenges, perspectives, and desires drive so much of their thoughts and actions, for how their unbridled enthusiasm for life fills our classes with a verve and liveliness unfamiliar in most adult settings. I’m grateful for our relationships we build, for the memories we share, and for those moments when they finally “get it” – whatever “it” is – and allow me a front row seat to their joy.
I’m grateful for the extent of resources I’ve been fortunate enough to take advantage of during my career. Although I know not all teachers can make this claim, I am thankful that I have typically had the resources I needed – whether teaching tools, copy machines, craft supplies, books, or technology – to meet the instructional needs of my classes. Yes, life goes on even if specific resources aren’t available within arm’s reach, but I am grateful for being in a place where my creativity and my students’ needs have rarely suffered from lack of resources.
I have many friends who complain about their work. Sure, I have days I complain, too (don’t we all?). But many of these friends share a growing disillusionment with their career; they become increasingly aware of the fact that their jobs are joyless and their role is to make someone else a little richer.
As a teacher I have never once – not ever – grown disillusioned with my career, and for this I am grateful. I’m grateful that being a teacher means that I’m on the ground floor of difference making, playing an active role in helping young individuals develop academically, socially, and emotionally. I suppose teachers are in the business of making other people rich, too; but in our case, we help the next generation grow rich with ideas, confidence, enthusiasm, and skills that – we hope – make the world a better place. I can’t imagine a more meaningful way to spend my days.
Students often ask me why I became a teacher. For me it’s simple: I love literature and I love sharing that joy with others. I’m grateful to have a job that doesn’t feel like a job, but rather feels like a chance to simply focus on what I’m passionate about.
Of course not every moment of my days allows me to strictly focus on these passions, but overall my task each day is to help students master the critical elements of reading and articulating themselves, all while exploring truly fascinating, real-life topics. I’m grateful for having a job that never lets me feel bored, uninspired, and regretful.
Thanksgiving is an especially important holiday for teachers. As we are encumbered with the changes and challenges of a difficult profession, it’s helpful to stop for a moment and realize that we have much to be grateful for.
I saw a sign recently that read, “Thanksgiving is not a day, but an attitude.” And it’s with that sentiment – that I ought to find things to be grateful for on a regular basis – that I will continue throughout my year.
What kind of attitude do you have when it comes to Thanksgiving this year? Amidst the stressors and dilemmas we face on a day-to-day basis, we ought to train ourselves to pause every once in a while and think, “I’m grateful for …” Doing so will help us maintain a positive attitude, a grateful mindset, and a happy heart.
So, what are you thankful for as a teacher? What else would you add to this list? Tell us your Thanksgiving sentiments in the comments below!
Jordan Catapano is a high school English teacher in a Chicago suburb. In addition to being National Board Certificated and head of his school’s Instructional Development Committee, he also has worked with the Illinois Association of Teachers of English and has experience as a school board member for a private school. You can follow him on Twitter at @BuffEnglish, or visit his website www.jordancatapano.us.