Saturday, November 7, 2015


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?


  1. Spark Notes version: my colleagues, my students and their families, the excitement when I help someone through a rough spot...a lot of good happens in schools, even in virtual schools.

  2. Books. Books. More books. Discount on books. Congenial co-workers and nice customers.

  3. My colleagues, many of whom I got to know much better while walking the picket line together. The freedom I have in my classroom to teach the way I think is best for the students. The building I teach in, which is relatively new and lovely.

  4. Heated floors? Higher level thinking? Writing skills? Students working together? A teacher grateful for new ideas?

    Gratitude is indeed a good thing. Enjoyed this post.

  5. This is a great post. Your school has teacher-parent conferences for the high school level? That is really impressive.

    I think of my job as a dream job - I set my own hours and work on interesting things. I work with numbers and I like that. It can get a bit lonely working by myself at home (telecommuting) and there is no one to bounce ideas off of. But in general I am quite comfortable working on my own. I am always, always grateful for the flexibility I have.

  6. It's interesting to hear your thoughts on the Common Core. I read about it when I was homeschooling and I thought it made sense, but then a lot of teachers I know hate it. Maybe it's not the Common Core itself, but the school administrators that make it so awful for some people.

    I just finished my first week at a new job. I'm still working for the same institution and the same department, but I have a new boss and different responsibilities. I'm the "meaningful use/regulatory analyst" for my institution, which means I need to quickly learn a LOT about the CMS and its regulations. It's a bit terrifying, but on the plus side, after the end of November, I will no longer have to be on call.

    1. I think people may also be confusing the Common Core standards with all the testing that has been introduced with it. I think the Common Core standards are pretty good, but I'd like to opt Emma out of all the Pearson-supported testing.

  7. I smiled through this whole post. It's one thing to be fortunate but a whole other level to be aware of it. I also like knowing you support the Common Core. Lovely.

    I am grateful for the attributes of each of the three people I live with. They are focused, attentive, smart, and goofy.

  8. Windowless? Seriously? WHY do we stick our kids (and teachers) in classrooms without windows? You would think 2 methods of egress would be a required fire safety thing. Never mind that it is just unhealthy to be shut in like that...

  9. You're a great teacher, aren't you? I have loved watching you at this, from full-time mom and temporary sub to full-time teacher. You do what teachers should, push the kids, help them explore, make it easy for them to be inspired! As for me, well, the life of a full-time artist is something to be WILDLY grateful for :)

  10. I'm so glad to hear of schools which allow their teachers to teach and not conform to a standard curriculum. Sounds like you are doing marvelous things with the students in your care.
    But seriously. No windows?? Is it like Vegas, with no clocks, either, so people lose track of time?
    This whole list was smile-inducing.

  11. Well, I *have* a job, which is more than I could say a year ago.

    Plus, the people are nice, the work is interesting, and my commute is quite short. Oh, and I carpool with the husband, which is nice.

  12. Depends on which job! one is great. The other....very, very stressful. But I'll focus on the great one. I love teaching, and I enjoy my nursing students.
    I'm glad you like teaching too, and that you don't have any worst of the worst students!

  13. I'm thankful working for people that truly are family friendly, that really are flexible when it comes to my schedule at times.

  14. It is good to count our blessings, as you mention we take a lot for granted like running water, heat, shelter, etc. My husband and I are happy to be retired; I retired as a librarian, a job that had lots of good points.

  15. You sound so much like a much younger version of my favorite English teacher from high school (creative writing and AP 12). Truly, your students are blessed to have you!

    My gratitudes: meaningful work and I am told that I am appreciated on a regular basis.
    Bonus: my retired dh has taken over nearly all the shopping and cooking.

  16. I think the ability to use pen and pencil is still worthwhile, even in the 21st century.

  17. the best thing about my job is that i DON'T HAVE ONE. i am really enjoying that right now. especially with all the holiday stuff coming up.


Spill it, reader.