Each year in November, it seems to be a common practice to share why we’re thankful or perhaps start a gratitude practice. Even with this year’s unpredictable chaos, I still find myself remembering why I’m so grateful for the blessings in my life. Anything from the health of my family, to the playfulness of our dogs, to the simple pleasures that we’re so lucky to have (looking at you, food delivery services!), I can typically name several things each day for which I’m thankful.
Teachers are usually at the top of my list when I go through this practice each year. Where would we be without the fantastic educators in our lives? I’m fortunate enough to still have contact with some of my favorite teachers, and my kids have so many special people in their lives who are their current or former teachers. Each year can bring about difficult circumstances, but it seems like teachers are the unsung heroes who continuously show up to weather those situations with us and for this I am so thankful.
This year, though, has reminded me again just how amazing teachers can be.
Our school year started out with a lot of uncertainty and apprehension. Our community has been very divided over the safest way to proceed with education, and unfortunately, our teachers and administrators were the focus of a lot of anger expressed in online discussions. Despite the wide range of emotions surrounding the issue, our teachers showed up with their usual positivity and enthusiasm. They are powering through technical issues, disappointment over cancelled events and traditions, and many other undesirable aspects to teach our kids and be there for them as much as they can be in the allowed environments. They were thankful for the chance to teach our kids in some way this year.
Even with all of the added chaos, there have been several moments which have reminded me why I am so thankful for the teachers in my kids’ lives.
My oldest son has Down syndrome, and his school support team has continued to do everything they can to help us achieve the inclusive experience we want him to have. We have a lot of meetings, and this year our meetings have moved to online forums. While tricky, we’re still working together to determine the best way for my son to get through his sophomore year. In one note before a quarterly meeting, one of his teachers noted that he’s glad to have the opportunity to get to know my son, and that they’ve connected over my son’s love of the WWE. I couldn’t help but smile; masks and distance aren’t keeping my son from sharing one of his favorite things with his teachers, and I was thankful to hear that his teacher was willing to share in that excitement.
My daughter, a freshman, is balancing being in a new building in addition to all of the demands of her classes. We are so proud of her determination, and we recently received an email from her math teacher telling us how well she did on a recent test. I was so impressed that her teacher was reaching out to share that good news; with all of the extra demands of this year, she made time to contact us to make sure we know just how proud she is of our daughter, too.
Right before Thanksgiving break, due to the rising community spread of the virus, it was announced that our district would have virtual learning leading up to the break rather than having the last few days of in-person classes. The very next day, my youngest son’s math teacher sent out her typical newsletter, but indicated that she had given each student a packet of math work that they are not to touch yet. She explained that this work was only being provided just in case the district would have to move to virtual classes after the Thanksgiving break. I read the email a couple of times, realizing that this teacher had taken the time and effort to provide these work packets to her students, on such short notice, rather than spending that time with her family, or just relaxing. I found that I had tears in my eyes, not because of the possibility of more virtual learning, but because this teacher cares enough to ensure that her students would be supported, no matter what.
All of these moments are coupled with former teachers reaching out, just to check on my kids or send well wishes. It’s often noted how much impact a teacher can have on a student, and the way my kids’ faces lit up when I gave them messages from these teachers perfectly illustrates this.
Teachers, administrators, and staff: I hope you feel supported and appreciated. I know this school year is more stressful than others, and I realize that everything is less than perfect, but I recognize how hard you are working. No matter how much weirder this school year gets, I’m thankful for you and your efforts to best educate and care for our kids.