There are 30 days in the month of November. So I challenge you to think of 30 ways you are thankful about your chosen profession. Here are 10 that I came up with, in no particular order of importance, to get us started. I'm know there are many, many more. You may agree, or not... but each is worth considering...
1. The people. I think one of the major reasons I teach is the people.... the colleagues, the students, the classified staff, parents, and all those with whom you have a meaningful relationship. I have cherished friendships with fellow teachers and co-workers; and former students, who now as adults, still call me "coach" or "Mrs. Bechard" out of respect; and parents who still stay in touch and make me feel like I made a difference in their children's lives. There are also those who touched my life through their influence, support, and encouragement. I think of Gene Dillard, my favorite teacher who challenged and pushed me as a student, and then mentored me as my principal. I think of Lew Faust who gave me a reason to stay in education when I was disillusioned, and Bob Behrens who allowed me the opportunities to grow in leadership roles. And I would be remiss without mentioning my many teacher friends and consultant colleagues with whom I am intertwined and totally dependent on their love, support. knowledge, and feedback.
2. Professional learning. The opportunity to keep growing and learning and to stay current on things that matter, and then be able to share that new learning with others. Just as with your physical abilities, your mental abilities follow this mantra too: "If you don't use it, you lose it!"
3. School Lunch. It was not always the greatest, but man, there were some amazing choices on the menu that I looked forward to each month! They were probably not the healthy choices I should have been making, but they sure were good - and best of all, you got to eat them with your friends whether you were the students in the cafeteria, or the teachers in the faculty room.
4. Binder clips. You laugh, but these are the greatest little tools for holding what matters together with a tight grip!
5. Colored file folders and paper. In a sea of white paper, everything is the same and often unrecognizable. But color gives it identity and a way to find what was lost whether it is on my messy desk, or when giving it to students or sending it home for parents. Color gets noticed! People are like that too! When we add color to what we do, we too get noticed! It's easy to be safe but it may not get you where you want to go as quickly!
6. Technology. This is the greatest change that has occurred in my lifetime. In education (and in all walks of life) we can look up more; write more; organize more easily; edit without having to start over; and do everything so much faster! We no longer have to learn to thread projectors or use reference books that are outdated the moment they go to print. The technology makes learning and teaching more interesting and even more fun! I have become dependent on technology, and I have only scratched the surface of what's out there! I will acknowledge it can also be irritating when it doesn't work, but it's a lifesaver when it does work!
7. School facilities. No matter how many things you can see that need to be fixed in your building, be thankful you have one! Make it as nice and inviting as you can! Be thankful it's not a bombed out shell, or abandoned because everyone moved away. It is the place we bring learning to life! Make it special!
8. Activities/Athletics. Yes these are important parts of schools. They are the motivation for some, the extension for others, and the way we become well rounded. We learn team work, problem solving, perseverance, goal setting and achievement in these settings. We learn how to be there for others and to work hard to achieve our goals. We learn application of learning and how to perform under pressure. We understand the strength of unity and the weakness of a single link. These are lifetime experiences that we take with us forever.
9. Getting out of your building. It's a pain to do lesson plans or clean up the messes left by your absence, but it is sooooo important to see what else is out there! Getting out of your building gives you opportunities to learn something new, connect with other educators, see how others do the same thing you are attempting to do, or evaluate your own effectiveness. It is a time of renewal of spirit and skill. It is also a time to give back, to help others, and to share experiences. We are not an island unto ourselves. The more we reach out, the more we get in return. Get out of your classroom; get out of your building; get out of your district; and once in awhile, get out of your state. There is a lot to see and learn out there!
10. Educational Freedom. We have choices. As teachers we can choose from many resources and teaching strategies to teach the curriculum. Even our curriculum, such as the Common Core Standards, give us latitude on how to teach while giving us guidance on the depth of what we teach. Thankfully, our government does not decide for us what our educational path will be based on how we are functioning at age 14 (or sooner). There are many pressures to succeed and requirements we must meet, but students have choices on course work and careers, teachers have choices on what and how to teach, and schools have choices on what to offer. We are free to complain, to protest, to disagree. We are also free to do something about it. Education is not just about learning stuff, it's learning what to do and when to do it with all the stuff we learn.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. You probably can think of many, many things to be thankful for as an educator or as a non-educator who has benefited from school! So everyday this month, think about something you are thankful for. What would you do if that thing, person, or opportunity wasn't there? And when you realize that, you have been thankful!