Aw yes…the unoriginal “why we should be thankful?” blog post. Yes, I think it’s cliche. No, I am not going to write about something else. Why you ask? Because sometimes cliches are comforting…They also extremely easy to work into any conversation. I have never been in meeting for any job I have ever had in or out of education where somebody would chime in with, “If we could just find a balance between (Thing A) and (Thing B), then I believe we can be successful”, that didn’t end with most of the room nodding in approval, or in the case of a meeting between Pentecostals, half the room falling out of their chairs because the spirit just slayed them. Like I said, cliches may be cliche, but they bring about comfort, even if that comfort is in knowing that it’s going to be bad. But I don’t want to talk about about the bad, I want to talk about the good.
So often in our teaching lives we seem to focus on the negatives. It was pointed out to me the other day that this might be the only profession where when somebody asks you if you had a good day and you genuinely did, but that one kid just got to you today, that’s all that you carry around. We focus on the 5% negativity instead of the 95% positivism. I am not immune to this thought. And when I give advice or write about this that need to be improved, just know that i am mostly talking to myself, because teaching is, in one word, hard. If you would like me to be more verbose, I can tell you the it’s “Not easy”. Good? Great! Now on to thankfulness!
What am I thankful for as a teacher…Hmmm…Maybe I will just use some cliches to help illustrate
1.There’s no time like the present!
Tomorrow we get to go on break! We get five full days off in a row that we don’t have to count as sick days or FMLA or some other lame reason to take money from our paychecks. We don’t have to show up to work for five straight days! We can rejoice in the fact that for a while we can just be ourselves. We can go home and binge all 10 seasons of Friends in the next five days because we want to. We can go see a movie at noon on Friday because we want to . We can sit in a car with screaming toddlers for five hours while they complain about the which movie they get to watch on the five inch wide screen in the minivan, while simultaneously getting sticky somehow and then making the rest the car sticky and then you all start to stick to the car like giant flies caught in a giant sticky fly trap, and so you can’t get out of the car and have to have your in-laws detach you from your seats with buckets of scalding hot water….Okay…I am sorry…my imagination got away from me. So, maybe it isn’t completely free of stress, but it’s stress we get to choose.
- Love is blind
When I asked teachers what they were most thankful for this year, a overwhelming majority of them said having a supportive admin team. To me this is everything! I think this holds so much truth. I have been in situations where I the admin and I didn’t see eye to eye on most things and it was a disaster in the making. I would try to avoid them at all costs. I thought that any time that I would go down to their office that I was in a lot of trouble. There are no scarier seven words, in my opinion, in a teachers life than, “If need to talk to you later.” It just doesn’t sound comforting. It sounds like when I would do something wrong as a teenager and I would come downstairs and both of my parents are sitting downstairs on the couch meeting my eyes as I walked down the steps. It’s scary stuff.
But to be in a situation where the tension is zero is joyful.There is such relief in knowing that my admin has my back no matter what the situation is. That when there is an issue in my classroom, the admin comes to me first and wants to hear from. That when I have an idea that is non-traditional, I hear “Make it happen!”. I am going to use another cliche here to illustrate something. You know teachers use the phrase “They don’t care how much you know, until they know how much they care,” or some variation of that. Teachers and administrators are the same way. I am way more likely to feel appreciated and stick around my job longer, work longer hours, give more dynamic lesson plans, go the extra mile (sorry, cliche), if I know that every extra mile that I walk has a supportive voice behind it telling me to keep it up. I can think of admins like Sharon Fields and Dave Driggs at Tri-Central who saw such a passion in be and they wanted to let it lose. I tested their patience from time to time, but I know that are a big reason for my success.
- A good friend is hard to find
When I was in college I never joined a group. Not a fraternity or regalia club or student government or the ultimate Frisbee rec league. I just didn’t want to get involved. When I started teaching I felt the same way. But when I soon found, to mix cliches, is that strength is found in numbers, and friends are found in those numbers. I believe that I have been successful in my career because I have been able to make excellent friends. I remember have some terrible times in my first year, and when I was struggling I would go next door to Joe Marsh and have a laugh with him and Kyle Etherington. Those moments after school or on our prep where we may not have gotten much done, but we encourage one another with laughter, were some of the times I will remember the most, because they were the times that I was feeling like I had found a place to belong.
The same can be said of Kevin Haar, Jim Gorski, Joel Krato, and Bryan Keim at Winfield. Kevin and Joel and I still have a group text that we talk in at least once a week even though we all three work at three different schools now. I can say the same about Kelly Gerstner, Joe Simpson and Debbie Sanchez at Riverview Gardens or Curt Powers at New Palestine. Some of these people will be friends for the foreseeable future, and I know I could never have kept going if it wasn’t for them.
- What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
I am not so sure of this one all the time. Sometimes I feel as though the things that don’t kill me just make me not want to do anything but binge watch Superhero movies so at least I can see my twin, Captain Steve Rogers, be successful. It’s nice to see other people be successful. But sometimes I just get beaten down so much that it’s hard remember why I do what I do. Then you hear about one of your students who had two kids in school, making it in the world. You hear about your former baseball players getting scholarships to college. You hear about students who single handedly brought their family out of poverty within one generation due to hard work and perseverance. You hear about all of these amazing things that all of your students are doing, and then you realize that it was totally worth it. The long nights grading and prepping for class. The early morning drives an hour away just so you can make it for a study group before school. Staying after school to watch the Freshman volleyball team lose tremendously bad. But in all of those things there is growth. Students grades go up. You catch up on some you time on the way to school and it makes you a better person for them that day, therefore helping them succeed. The Freshmen volleyball team still sucks, but a student now knows that at least one person in the world cares for them, and that leads them to want to be the same to somebody else. It may not make you stronger in the short term, but in the long run, it will empower you to push through to moments of weakness, so that you can find those moments where your strength is restored.
So Thursday, while you are gorging yourself on stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and whipped cream, and flightless tryptophan-laden loose-necked obese fowl, remember that while the cliches of teaching are sometimes just cliches, they can still bring you a lot to be thankful for.
Thanks for reading an have a Happy Thanksgiving