What does gratitude mean in education?
It starts with something that happened to my during my second year of teaching. If you survived the cut throat, desperation and hopelessness that is the first year of teaching (which is all about survival); then the second year is MAGIC! You are more engaged with who you are, what you are capable of doing, what the hell you are supposed to be doing, and how to best serve your students.
Relationships, for me, were something that I wanted to work on. I was comfortable in my classroom, I was comfortable walking the halls of my building and with others in my department. And it’s not to say that I had a major issue building relationships with my students, but rather, I knew there was a deeper more meaningful way to build my relationships with my students.
Depending on who you talk to, this is not common talk in the teachers lounge. Many teachers are out the door at 3:15pm along WITH the students. Many teachers can’t stand kids, and I’m embarrassed to admit that on several occasions, when teachers would talk badly about students, I didn’t speak up when I should have. You would be surprised by how many teachers don’t like kids, much less helping them, and even less wanting to build meaningful relationships with them. For many, the time we spend in the classroom is more than they bargained for.
I wasn’t quite sure how to do it, but I knew there was something else I could be doing. Something that involved more than superficial talk.
I felt stuck.
And then there was Joel.
My afternoons usually consisted of sweaty stinky football players and failing students coming after school to make up grades. My afternoon tutorials were afternoons that smelled of desperation. Having one on one time with any student is fun, especially when I get to dive into molecular shapes, calculating grams per mol, or any other fun chemistry/science themes. When Joel would come after school (because he needed to make up work, due to his family problems), it was different.
Joel and I would sit and talk about the cars his uncle and him were rebuilding and fixing up. After all the stinky kids went off, we would talk about his alcoholic father’s issues. About how grateful he felt for his uncle stepping in and playing a fatherly role, and for teaching him about auto body repairs; which he loved. It was great to see his eyes open wide and glisten whenever he talked about popping out doors, or mastering bondo. It was fun for me to just listen to him and to hear him get excited and passionate about doing something he saw himself doing for the rest of his life. His future was very clear to him.
One afternoon, Joel waited until the room cleared out to tell me some interesting news; he made $16,000 selling three cars he fixed. And he wanted my opinion as to what he should do with the money.
I was floored. Not only because of the fact that he saw me as someone who could counsel him in this regard, but because I understood that my relationship with him and my role was not defined by the title on my contract. I suggested that he open up a Roth IRA.
A week later, he thanked me, and told me how the bank manger wanted to shake his hand for making such a wise investment at such a young age.
Joel now has two shops and is doing fantastic.
The Friday before my very first day of school teaching, my principal spoke to the entire staff during a very hectic last Friday before the first day. With all of the teachers filling in the cramped cafeteria, legs nervously twitching, and after a monotonous and boring explanation of testing results from the year before, which being a new teacher, made no sense to me, my principal said some words that have haunted me ever since.
He thanked all of us for what we do, for what we will do during the school year. And he thanked us for breaking poverty cycles.
Whenever you find yourself this year, caught in a difficult situation with a student, remember something; you were chosen. You were chosen for that situation. You were chosen to rise above yourself and to transform and to express your fullest potential.
I could have easily told Joel to ask someone else, or to not have bothered with him at all, given him some work, and moved on. Instead, I was given the opportunity to impact someone’s life in a positive way, and I did. And his life will forever be impacted by the time and the energy invested.
And I will be forever transformed by the experience I was chosen for.
I am grateful for the opportunity, everyday, to make an impact.
I am humbled by the opportunity, everyday, to serve.
I carry with me, a sense of gratitude, that transforms me whenever I get the opportunity to express my fullest potential. And I do this by helping others express their fullest potential.
#oneword2019 = Gratitude