“No one who achieves success does so without the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.” – Alfred North Whitehead
The teaching profession has never been the path of least resistance. I think most teachers recognize going in—or at least within the first year of teaching—that teaching is difficult. State legislatures try to defund our schools, the media portrays teachers in a negative light, our salaries are woefully low considering our workload, and sometimes we feel like our efforts go unacknowledged. Still, as Thanksgiving approaches, I find myself reflecting on my twenty-plus years as a teacher. One feeling comes to my mind when I think of my profession: gratitude. Overwhelming gratitude. Teaching has stretched me, exhausted me, brought me to tears, filled me with joy, built my confidence, and taught me so many things about people and about myself. I want to share with my fellow teachers, parents, and friends why I am thankful for being a teacher.
Thankful for Teaching Friends and Colleagues
Over the years, I’ve worked with and befriended some of the most amazing people. I keep in contact with many of the teachers I worked with during my first teaching job. These friends have collaborated with me, celebrated life’s joys with me, and one even introduced me to my husband! We’ve grown up together and watched each other develop both personally and professionally.
I’ve also met terrific teachers in my own building. I work with so many teachers who inspire me to work hard and do my best because I see them doing the same. Even though I don’t have a teaching partner per se, I work in a building where I know I can approach any colleague and get help, collaboration, and encouragement. It is truly a blessing to work in such an environment.
I’ve developed some great relationships with other teachers in my district. I don’t get to see these co-workers daily, but they still make an impact on my work. I have several close librarian friends I can call if I need advice, have a question, or just need a book recommendation. I also have technology friends I reach out to when I have a tech question or need some guidance in planning. It’s great to have these relationships with co-workers both past and present.
Thankful for Relationships With Former Students and Parents
A few months ago, after a particularly discouraging day at work, I posted something on Facebook about being frustrated. Immediately, a student I had taught my first year replied, “Didn’t you know that I basically made it through high school because of you?” Obviously, that was the bright spot of my day. I’ve been lucky to see kids grow up, graduate, and go on to become amazing adults. And I’ve been lucky enough to have these former students reach out to me and want to stay in touch.
I feel the same way about parents. Let’s face it—in teaching, dealing with parents can be tough. But there are also many supportive, funny, and genuinely nice parents around. I’ve had the privilege of having many wonderful parents. For example, I have a library volunteer who started out as a parent/helper while her two sons went through my building. Her boys are now in high school, but she still volunteers in my library once a week as well as during book fairs and other special events, and we’ve become friends over the years. I also have parents who I stay in contact with via social media, and I love keeping up on their lives and what their kids are doing. In my opinion, developing relationships with kids, parents, and co-workers is the biggest perk of teaching.
Thankful for the Variety That Teaching Offers
Every day in the education world is little bit different. Whether you’re a school librarian, high school history teacher, or kindergarten teacher, no two days are exactly the same. One day I might be scrambling to pull a class set of books for a teacher. The next day I may be helping students find an appropriate book for a class project. I may be creating videos for our school’s Friday Flick, or I may be showing preschoolers how to use a mouse. No matter the day, my job is never, ever boring—and I’m glad about that. I love the creative aspects of teaching such as planning new and innovative lessons, trying to take a dull subject and make it entertaining, and working with other teachers on various projects. I am thankful every day that my work space is a library and a computer lab rather than a cubicle. I’m grateful that I work with kids, who are unpredictable, ever-changing, and interesting.
Thankful for the Personal Transformation I’ve Experienced
Teaching has made me a stronger, more resilient teacher and person. I look back at my younger self—a quiet, reserved, and insecure 23-year-old. I let dumb things fluster me, and I often doubted myself. I taught as this version of myself for five years, then I took a hiatus from teaching. Being young and inexperienced is hard, but the only way through it is sticking with teaching, talking to other teachers, reflecting, and trying again. Eventually, I returned to teaching and I learned and grew. I’m a better teacher, mom, wife, and human because I returned to education.
2018 Crysta is more confident. I’ve learned to let little things roll off my back, to not take myself too seriously. I’ve learned to be more forthcoming about who I am to my students and co-workers. I am now able to ask for help as needed, and I don’t feel bad for doing so. Today I reflect on my lessons, but I do not tell myself I am a terrible teacher if a lesson flops. I know what to do if I’m mid-lesson and things go awry. I build better rapport with my students, and I know that I need to work in a place that values collaboration. Teaching has molded me into who I am today, and I’m grateful for that.
Thankful for Where My Teaching Journey Has Brought Me
I know I’m biased, but I’m certain that I work in the very best school. On paper, we’re a good school with high test scores, but we are also a hidden gem. We’re a small, rural, low income, Title 1 school, and I think that some educators fear that setting. It may not be everyone’s bag, but in our school, we function as a small family of friends and co-workers who strive to do what is best for our kids.
We have a principal who embodies what I want to be as an educator. She is firm, but kind. She encourages her staff, and she supports her teachers when they need help. We have certified staff—some who’ve taught here their whole career and some who are new—who show kindness and dedication every day they walk in the building. They know their students, care about their students, and work hard to help kids learn. We have non-certified staff who play an integral role, too. Our paras work hard, and they love our kids like their own. Our custodians and kitchen staff are flexible and helpful, and the kids know and like them. We have parents who appreciate our efforts and kids who are enthusiastic to learn. My school is not perfect, but we work together, like and admire each other, care about our students, and do well academically. My building is a pretty great place to land—and I’m glad to be here.
Let me be clear: Teaching is not a perfect profession. There are days when I come home exhausted and emotionally spent, and other times when I think to myself, “I can’t do it. I can’t do one more day of this.” But I always come back to the joys of my job. What keeps me going? The hug I just got from the quiet kid in the back of the room. The kind—and yes, slightly misspelled—note I received from the new third grader. The email from a colleague that helped me get through the day. The Subway sandwich a parent brought to me out of the goodness of her heart. The Facebook message I received from an old student from my first teaching job. These anecdotes are the heart of teaching and they are my “why.” So tomorrow, I’m going to get out of bed, take a few deep breaths, prepare for my day, and focus on gratitude—my gratitude for all that teaching has given back to me.
In honor of Thanksgiving, we’ll be sharing stories, thoughts, and posts from educators all week long with the reasons they are thankful for teaching. Be sure to subscribe to the Educator blog so you don’t miss any!