5 Things Teachers Can Still Be Thankful For

Teachers Thanksgiving

With the current state of education in our nation, it's sometimes easy to get bogged down in our work, in worrying about the future, in all that could, can, and does go wrong — not just for us, but for the students.

I can't stand walking around dwelling on the negative like that, so I decided to put together a list of things we can still be thankful for as teachers. I hope you enjoy, and that this list brightens your spirits.

#5 Autonomy

I know not all of us still get to make our own professional decisions about the lessons we teach and the curriculum we use. But I wanted to add this one to the list for those of us who are still blessed with being treated as professionals, and still allowed to use our professional judgement. I have been very blessed to work for administrators who have supported my efforts to find ways to engage my students that go beyond the lecture/notes/test format, who have been very forthcoming in providing the feedback I need to improve my teaching practice.

New York state English teacher and writer Ian Berger stated that he is thankful that he can “put on plays as part of my curriculum, plays I get to write.” That sounds like a dream come true.

#4 The Breaks

We like to joke around about getting summers and major holidays off work. And while it's true that we look forward to the breaks just as much as the kids (if not more so), our breaks aren't so much about lying around at home and watching reruns of Royal Pains on Netflix. Those breaks from presenting interesting lessons while simultaneously managing the behavior of 20 or more students, troubleshooting technology, and assessing student learning on a minute-by-minute basis for 30 hours a week, followed by lesson planning and grading are crucial to reinvigorating our enthusiasm. It's easy to lose steam as they days keep dragging on. The kids feel it, teachers feel it, and we both need breaks. The kids need to go outside and play, learn a few things on their own, recharge their own batteries. Teachers, on the other hand, need opportunities to reflect in solitude, to collaborate with fellow teachers, to incorporate the results of their assessment into retooled lesson plans for the upcoming quarter.

Of course, our families are also thankful for these breaks because they actually get to see us during the breaks, at least, when we're not blogging, collaborating at conferences and workshops, or catching up on those lesson plans and grading.

#3 Adventure

Teaching is truly an adventure. Any time you put more than a dozen children in one room and ask them all to complete a task, even if it's just to listen for five minutes, you're in for an interesting ride. With varying interests, temperaments, attitudes, backgrounds, lunar stages, a classroom is is an amorphous learning zone guaranteed to produce at least a few intesting stories to share with one's grandchildren.

“Every day is an adventure,” said New York state teacher Heidi Sheffield.

Seminole, Florida middle school teacher Michelle Hamlyn added, ” It's never boring. And I get to touch the future every day.”

Where else do you get to have the adventure of touching the future every day?

#2 Colleagues

More than 70 percent of teachers are disengaged from their jobs according to the Gallup Q12 survey shared by Dr. Bobby Moore of Ohio's Battelle For Kids at a recent OK Gear Up Leadership Academy.

Whether or not you have a work “best friend” is one of the most important indicators of satisfaction with any job, but can be especially important in teaching.

Now, before you get skeptical, I'm not talking about someone you share your deepest personal secrets with, or go shopping with every Saturday. Instead, I'm talking about someone at work who supports you, listens to you, helps you when you're struggling. Having several people at work who contribute to this role is even better, especially at the middle school level where you can have more than 100 kids per day go through your classes, and all of them are in varying stages of puberty.

Tiffany Blackledge, Little Axe Middle School paraprofessional stated that she is especially thankful for the “cooperation among our staff members.” As someone who is honored to be a member of that staff, I have to agree with her. Being a part of a team with common goals can provide you with the mental and emotional support you need when you're slogging through the October to November slump, or that long stretch in April when you can't seem to get any learning done because of all the testing.

#1a Parents

Parents who partner with their children's teachers, who enforce academic, behavioral, and attendance expectations at home are a blessing to any teacher. Most of the time, students of these parents work hard in class and collaborate in their own learning. That said, with those kids who struggle in any of these areas, a quick phone call home or email will result in either changed classroom behavior or at least the knowledge that discusdions are being held, cellphones are being confiscated and progress is being made, no matter how minute.

Just for the record, when my own children misbehave or struggle at school, I work to partner with my child's teacher just the way I want parents to partner with me as a teacher.

#1b The kids

Sometimes it's easy to forget why we went into this profession in the first place. We get bogged down in bell-to-bell teaching and trying to encourage, motivate, and stretch students to improve their test scores. But that's not why we went into teaching. Pamela Barnett, first year English teacher at Little Axe Middle School said that she is most thankful for her students' enthusiasm. “I'm thankful for the kids' hugs, their acknowledgement, when they say thank you,” she said.

Debbie Self, 8th grade teacher and head of the English department at Little Axe Middle School said that she's really thanful for those moments “when I teach outside of the box and [the students] really get it.”

These are all the things I'm thankful for as well. I'd love to hear your input. Please feel free to add what you're thankful for to the list below.

Happy Thanksgiving!

About the author 

Michelle Boyd Waters, M.Ed.

I am a secondary English Language Arts teacher, a University of Oklahoma student working on my doctorate in Instructional Leadership and Academic Curriculum with an concentration in English Education and co-Editor of the Oklahoma English Journal. I am constantly seeking ways to amplify students' voices and choices.

  1. It’s so true. Anyone can mindlessly listen to a lesson but when you get the questions, that is where the learning takes place.A lot of the text of the Babylonian Talmud is in the context of asking questions and then providing answers just terse enough that the reader can then probe further. It’s best, of course, when done with a partner or group for that reason. Each person can bring up other questions and the learning continues.

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