It's Thanksgiving month, a season and holiday I can really get behind. I've hung the boys' handprint turkeys from their early childhood around our house and propped up the bulletin board by the fireplace for them to write on construction paper leaves all that they feel thankful for. My head is down and I ignore the squawk of commercials telling me we need more. We have plenty. More than enough. We're taking this season to act grateful.
You see, we enjoy running water (hot and cold) and a well-insulated house with the luxury of in-floor heating. Our vehicles run, our appliances make life easier, we have friends and activities and a lovely view out the back window. We rarely stop and recognize all this wealth.
My colleagues are a fun group of people, guaranteed to make me laugh at least once a day and support me in any request I make of them. They freely share advice and sympathy. I am blessed to work with rock stars in the teaching profession, passionate and dedicated people. Our building isn't anything to brag about, but what happens in our cinder block cells reflects really well on what great teachers can do without the latest and greatest resources at their fingertips.
The freedom I enjoy with the curriculum is terrific. People can hate on Common Core all they want, but I love it. The old Wisconsin State Standards were ridiculous (Students should write with pen and pencil--seriously? nit-picky and stupid). Under the new guidelines I do legit teaching--read Founding Brothers and decide which founding brother was the best using the text as support--read The Crucible and argue which character behaved the worst. I'm not told exactly what to teach, I only have to achieve specific outcomes, the HOW is up to me. The emphasis on higher-level thinking and writing skills is up my alley as a teacher and I'm having a blast developing both English 12 and AP Language & Composition.
My students are mostly delightful (there are always a couple exceptions in any class, but even those kids aren't the worst). Third hour in particular always makes me smile. This weird mash-up of seniors respect each other and encourage each other every day. A popular student council member and state wrestling qualifier will swap out work with a special needs student and they treat each other as equals. A loudmouth cowboy and a foreign exchange student learn from each other. These kids think and make observations about literature and writing and care about the hour we spend together. I adore them. Plus they made up a sign-up sheet and take turns bringing in food for the whole class to share. I don't have to do anything but enjoy how well they get along and learn with one another. I merely facilitate the hour, which is what every teacher ultimately aspires to do.
My principal sent me to a conference and I returned with my head full of new ideas to try. I learned from every person I met at this conference and enjoyed a day of not being in charge. Bonus: Panera catered the event, breakfast and lunch.
The AP students are crushing it this year. We've got all kinds of good stuff happening on the writing front and on the discussion end. No one's overwhelmed, they're all in that sweet spot of feeling challenged enough. Two hours of bright kids with big ideas and insightful questions. What a dream. I feel good about this year's test scores.
Parents care, too. I saw almost 70% of my students' parents at conferences last week, and had positive contact with all of them. How marvelous to work in a school district where students have families really invested and involved in their education. Amazingly, I even had contact with every parent I wanted to see. (That usually doesn't happen.)
Sure, my right shoulder and elbow are sore from sitting cramped over grading papers. Yes, the cursed copy machine throws the occasional curve ball at my lesson plans. The paperwork can devastate our souls, Room 212 is windowless and chilly, and I swear drunk monkeys made out the schedule. But the stuff that really matters at work is good and great and I'm thankful for it.
Spill it, reader. What are the good things at your job?