#30DaysofThankful with #TheGirlWithPurpleHair
Day 20: I am grateful for so much that I can’t keep up
If you know anything about me, you know I hate delivering anything other than the utmost of excellence in all that I do. So you can imagine that when I set out to tackle these 30 Days of Thankful and haven’t been able to deliver I have been left frustrated with myself for letting down my readers. I shared this frustration with my best friend Mali via text when discussing an amazing project she’s currently working on to help the homeless. Mali’s reply was:
Moving yourself to action is easy, moving others to act takes more work, but it has far more value. We all fall of our goals and life happens. You’ll get back to your blog and whatever you decide matters to inspire others.
Mali’s right. I can’t be too hard on myself and I also cannot make excuses. I think in some respects I deliberately choose to take on more because I enjoy being busy but because life is so much of a competition to me: how much can I do and not lose my mind? I think my outlook needs some tweaking though. The work I do on my blog, with my high school students, and as a fitness instructor isn’t about grand standing and showing the world how much I can do. It’s simply about being a friggen rad human.
Recently, my work with my high school students has started to really pay off. I am feeling more utilized as a staff member on campus and I am even presenting things to the staff too. My students and I are delving into powerful material and concepts and I leave work thinking that somehow, somewhere I helped change someone’s perspective, attitude, and trajectory in life. Just this morning, my father said to me, “if you change just 5 people’s lives in the duration of your teaching career, that’s more than most people can ever say in their lifetime.” For the first time in a long time, I am slowly starting to see all of the joy that exists within my day. I find myself thinking, well, I don’t hate today; so I guess that’s a good thing.
Students choose to spend their free time in my classroom during nutrition (a type of recess in the early morning where the children are fed) and lunch. We talk about life, fashion, boys, and even books. We laugh and we giggle, and I inhale my food while monitoring those students I am holding for detention whilst preparing for the rest of the day. The bustle and hustle isn’t glamorous and most days my hair is in a ponytail, my clothes are wrinkled, and I look tired, very, very tired. But in spite of the system, the bad apples, and my bewilderment as to why kids don’t do their work; there is so much for me to be thankful and grateful.
- My honors students share stories of their lives and performed poetry where they were very vulnerable i.e. drugs, suicide, death, etc. They’re unafraid to be themselves and our classroom has become a safe haven where we pretty much cry together on a daily basis. Just yesterday after student performances of their poetry a young lady said to me, “I’ve hoped and prayed for a class just like this one my entire life. I just can’t believe it’s actually coming true.”
- My students bring me little gifts and trinkets when they take trips or see something they know I’ll like. One of my former students brought me back a beautiful Eiffel Tower statuette all the way from Paris! Another gave me a My Little Pony key chain ‘just because’. But it’s not about the gifts. It’s about someone going the distance to show you they thought of you and cared enough to express that. I’ve gotten many gifts over the years but in the last year, my students have gone to such incredible lengths to show me that they care about me that I cannot help but feel like I am so much more to them than ‘just their teacher’.
- They’ve started calling me their “School Mom.”
And for the first time in a long time, perhaps ever in my entire career I feel like most of my students understand what I am all about: Hard work that is made of an iron will and being a good human. As far as I’m concerned, you can have the best grammar in the world and if you’re a shitty person it doesn’t matter. While character education was removed from early education years ago, it’s completely non-existent [and perhaps never even existed in the first place] at the high school level. As it is, teachers are scrambling to teach the required standards and some feel going beyond the said curriculum isn’t their responsibility. But I see that differently. Coaching and building decent people with compassion and critical thinking skills is priceless in comparison to the Periodic Table of Elements. Equipping students with the capability to stand up for themselves in the face of adversity, be kind to others, and that their words have great power to enact change—well, that’s what it means to be a teacher.
So I guess my [attempted] 30 Days of Thankful really has been fruitful. It has given me some great insight into my work as a teacher. It has forced me to step back and look at the world I’ve created for my students and the new perspective has shown me that I am swimming in blessings. Each and everyday, regardless of the situation or circumstance; I must continue to seek the hidden joys nestled within my classroom for they do exist if I choose to see them.