In the days leading up to Thanksgiving Break, we had our students think about gratitude and what it means to be grateful for what life presents us. The human condition has us perpetually seeking more in spite of what we have been granted. It calls us to continually seek out the next best thing or the latest and the greatest without first thinking about what it is that we have right now.
This year my teaching team and I decided that we needed to take the message beyond the walls of the classroom and move into the community that surrounds our school. We called it the ECS Gratitude Challenge. We were focused on going beyond the half-truths and stories of the first Thanksgiving and moving towards the more meaningful part of the holiday— giving thanks. In preparation for the challenge, we had the students come up with challenges that would inspire others to take a minute to pause and be grateful for the things that they have been granted in life. The messages ranged from asking people to reach out to people who have changed their life to staying positive for an entire day. On the day before Thanksgiving— a day that’s typically not that well attended— nearly the entire 7th grade turned out to canvas the neighborhood. The students went door to door passing out their challenges and asking people to take the challenge. One of our students was so enthusiastic about spreading the word that she ran beside a set of joggers explaining the challenge. I’m not sure whether or not they took the challenge. I do, however, know that it put a smile on everyone’s face.
Although we probably only reached a few hundred people, the impact goes far beyond. We got students and community members to at least stop and think about that which they are grateful. I am not disillusioned enough to think that the students, community members or even the teachers will stop complaining and be grateful for what they have each moment of the day. However, we created a moment in time where people flexed their gratitude muscles and paid it forward. The key to creating any type of change is in taking the first step in the direction of change— no matter how small. A step toward a life filled with gratitude is one that promotes increased happiness and a greater resilience in times of challenge.
In the spirit of the challenge, I am here to say that I am grateful for the year that I have had. I have come through some the toughest challenges of my life— challenges that pale in comparison to the lived experiences of some of my students and many others. I have realigned and reaffirmed the goals that I have for myself and for my life. In this year, I have made some of the biggest strides towards reaching them. I am so grateful for the opportunity to help mold the lives of the young people I serve. In addition, I have found places for my voice to be heard beyond the classroom walls so that I can share my vision for education— including on this blog. I have so much gratitude for those of you who read, like and share the words that I piece together in hopes of making sense and reaffirming the reasons that we teach— the students.
I cannot say enough about the people who have supported me in my educational journey. I am blessed to have somehow found my way onto a team of teachers and teacher leaders that support the work that I do in order to create outstanding educational experiences. I do not want to name names as I might in my own absentmindedness leave a name or two off of that list. I hope that you all know who you are.
Then there are those like my mother and father, grandfather, Situ, grandmother, aunts and uncles and many others who have not only been a part of my support team and my cheerleaders, but have in no small part molded me into the man I am today.
For all who have touched my life in any way: Thank you. My gratitude is yours.