With Thanksgiving comes reflection, and this year my thinking was informed by French novelist Marcel Proust: “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” And while my family
most of the time naturally brings me a world of happiness, as do my friends, there are quite a few “charming gardeners” in and around my classroom.
First, the disclaimers. I am not a doe-eyed, fresh-out-of-grad-school teacher out to change the world. My eyes were never doe-like, and my Myers-Briggs type told me that changing the world was simply impractical. On the contrary, I am
an old a seasoned teacher who still finds joy in what happens after the bell sounds. That alone (well, that and my kids’ future college tuition bills) tells me that I’m not ready to move on just yet.
Instead, I find myself reflecting on those who have made my soul blossom. Here are just a few* of the charming gardeners who have contributed to my field.
TILL. Jenn was in my class last year. The day after her state test scores arrived this fall, she swung by to thank me. If you aren’t in education, you might not fully grasp the magnitude of this. But in almost twenty years, I can count on one hand how many students have done this. While I know there are a myriad of factors that played into her increased scores, the fact that she took time out of her day to say “thank you” absolutely made my soul blossom.
DIG. After hearing about how much choice-reading Kayla would be allowed to do this year, she asked, “But what if next year’s teacher doesn’t let me? What if it goes right back to nightly chapter reading and reading check quizzes and multiple choice tests and [insert gasp] even busywork?” (Donalyn Miller’s Reading in the Wild addresses this very question.) I told Kayla that next year most likely will look a lot different–and that it’s not necessarily a bad thing. I love the autonomy in teaching: We are all tasked with teaching the same skills but approach the teaching of them differently. I am thankful that Kayla is excited about this year but also that her instruction looked different last year and will look different again next year.
PLANT. When I started Project Classroom Library last year, David asked, “Why are you buying all of this stuff?” When I seemed confused, he clarified, “I mean, no offense, but why are you buying all of this stuff with your own money, for us?” I explained that the classroom library was my personal goal and not the district’s goal. Building this classroom library was something I wanted to do–but it came at a cost. And I am thankful David recognized that.
WATER. John is a colleague with whom I work, off of whom I bounce ideas, and from whom I openly accept feedback. He leads as an educator first and remains immersed in the classroom. Refreshingly, he knows the struggles and triumphs that I face on a daily basis because he is in the trenches right alongside me. He also has read–and taken to heart–the same literacy texts that I have and knows the importance of creating authentic, lifelong readers. None of this would have been possible without John’s
tolerance support of my educational risk-taking. He keeps me grounded, for which I am incredibly thankful.
HARVEST. Ella Wheeler Wilcox reminds us that “with every deed you are sowing a seed, though the harvest you may not see.” And because we teachers only have a 180-day sowing season, we won’t be privy to all of the greatness our students will actualize. However, I am thankful for them today.
And I can only hope they’ll have books on their nightstands tomorrow.
*All names have been changed to protect the fabulous.