It is the night before Christmas.
As usual, time just flew by this year – especially once I started teaching again – and I can’t believe tomorrow is Christmas.
That feeling happens every year. When Christmas finally gets here, I always feel like it was Thanksgiving only yesterday.
Tonight, after all the errands have been run, groceries have been bought, presents have been wrapped, I am filled with gratitude. And exhaustion.
But mostly gratitude.
I am grateful to have a job teaching in a school where the staff is supportive and kind. It makes a world of difference walking into a building each morning where you feel cared about and appreciated.
I never thought I would teach middle school, but here I am, teaching (and loving) 6th grade English and social studies. I am grateful for this job.
I am grateful to work with the most caring team of teachers I’ve ever worked with. My sixth grade “squad” is wonderful! We eat lunch together every day, we celebrate each other’s birthdays, we are there for each other – to listen, to vent, to help. I have never worked with a more supportive group. And I actually like them, too! I’ve never experienced this level of professional camaraderie before, and I love it.
I am grateful for my students. I’ve never taught 6th grade before (I’ll have to devote an entire post about what it’s like to move from high school into middle school because whoa! is it different!), and I was nervous about it. Would I like it? Would I be annoyed? Would I be able to deal with it? And I’m pleased to report I have made it through my first semester of middle school with flying colors!
Granted, I was dragging my butt into work each day from Thanksgiving until winter break… but I made it. There were days I thought my head would spin off and explode. There are days when I was nearly braindead and unable to form sentences after a day of teaching. There are weekends when all I wanted to do was sleep. I mean, this is a… fascinating… and crazy… but mostly awesome… age to teach.
My students are filled with wonder and hormones and silliness and compassion for the world around them. I feel grateful for the opportunity to spend time with them each day, hopefully teaching them a thing or two and inspiring them to want to learn new things. They have been a blessing. Even when they’re sometimes annoying and stressful, they are a blessing.
This Christmas, I experienced something I have never experienced in 15 years as a high school teacher… gifts from my students. As a high school teacher, this just doesn’t happen. I mean, sometimes, maybe, but not like this. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude and goodwill as I carted my bags of gifts home last Friday.
I feel gratitude for my daughter’s teachers. She is also in middle school, in her first year there as a fifth grader. She is having a (mostly) great year, playing the tuba in the beginning band, acting as a villager in the school’s upcoming production of Beauty and the Beast, and enjoying her studies of division, decimals, and the Civil War. She has been reading nonstop. She has been excited to go to school daily. I am so thankful for everyone at her school who has been there for her in this big transition into middle school.
I am grateful for my husband. Because of his support and the work he does, I was able to quit teaching in 2016 to take time to figure out what I wanted to do. Burnout is real, and I seriously needed a break. Along the way, I gained a new skill as a massage therapist and really allowed myself to relax. I completely understand not everyone can just quit their job and go do something else, which is why I am grateful.
Because of that time away from the classroom, when I returned to teaching this year, I felt renewed and ready for more – hopefully many more – years in the classroom.
There are so very many bad things happening in our world, in our country, in public education. There is no shortage of things to be outraged about. There are many things to be angry about and complain about. And I do my share of that.
But I am also grateful for the opportunity to be a teacher, and I never want to take that for granted. Teaching is a gift.
And yes, there is much work we, as teachers, need to continue doing – we need more respect and autonomy and pay and representation – and we will continue that in the year to come. Make no mistake – teachers will keep fighting for public education.
But for now, I’ll take my two (unpaid) weeks off to relax and recharge for the second semester. And I’ll continue to reflect on all the things I am thankful for as a teacher.
Happy Holidays, everyone. May we all have something to be grateful for in the coming year.