I hope you’ve been loving this month of posts emphasizing all our reasons to be personally and professionally grateful. This one comes from Kate Kennedy.
“November is the month of gratitude. We have an entire day dedicated to sitting around a table with friends and family and actually telling each other what we are grateful for. Forget about the food coma that comes afterwards, and the rush to head out to the Best Buy line, that five minutes around the table is one of the best parts of my year and something we should all be doing more than once…”
Friends, I was a bad girl and got behind on posting all the gratitude guest posts, but I am so glad to have four more to share, and it’s not Thanksgiving yet!
Today’s post is from DianaLyn Perkins, and she tells us why, although it may not be faster to team up with others, it is better in the long-run.
“This year I began my 10th year as an educator and my first year as a digital learning coach. I have had 3 different positions now all in the same district. As I reflect on the ride, there are so many things I am thankful for.
My first role as an educator was as a special education science teacher. I entered the education world as an alternative certification educator. I had been a physical science TA for 4 years in college, but that was so many years ago. I still remember two days before the kids were to come in sitting in front of my computer wondering what I was going to do with them. Just as the panic was really starting to settle in, my mentor, Sharon Pyburn, came in, walked me off my cliff and helped me plan my first lesson. She was so supportive doing all she could to help me get the resources I needed. She made a difference for me and for my kids. I co-taught with many different educators and gained valuable lessons from each one of them, but Angie Mahalic became not only a great co-teacher but also a valued friend. In addition, when I was going for my Master’s degree she was so open to every idea I brought to her, no matter how challenging or involved it was…”
The next guest post is here! This next one is from John Honish, a middle school teacher in Wisconsin. Read on.
“As a 23 year old kid fresh out of UW-Stevens Point, I entered a job market relatively high on supply and low on demand for Social Studies teachers. Wisconsin had just passed legislation to cripple the powers of the Teachers Union and it was a time of great uncertainty for the profession in our state. Math and Science were the hotly recruited positions, but I knew the reality was any openings for a Social Studies teacher would mean my resume would be one of hundreds on an administrator’s desk. I took a calculated gamble: risk looking like an unprofessional goofball that was too young and lacked the seriousness for the job by encouraging anyone thinking about hiring me to look at my crappy parody music videos on YouTube.
Somehow, some way, Beloit Turner called and said they wanted me to come down for an interview, and as I sat there rehearsing canned lines in my ill-fitting JCPenney clearance rack suit, an important looking man walked by, stopped, turned to face me and said “you’re General Dan Sickles!” referring to a “mockumentary” I had made for a college assignment that was posted on my YouTube channel (which you can watch here). It was fun to make, but we’re talking about scenes with the stock Windows MovieMaker grainy black and white effect while my roommate threw a basketball at my leg to simulate Civil War cannon fire. It definitely risked making me look like an unprofessional goofball that was too young and lacked the seriousness for the job.
‘Dennis McCarthy! I’m the Superintendent,’ he said as he extended a hand for me to shake. ‘This is either really good, or really bad,’ I thought to myself…”
Continuing our guest post tradition, which I hope you’re loving, here’s another one on the gratitude of a great PLN. Our guest author is Carol McLaughlin, from Birmingham, Alabama.
“I’ve always felt a little odd. A lone wolf. I usually don’t mind, but you rarely grow in isolation. You need others to encourage you. To push you. To inspire you.
I had no idea I needed a Twitter PLN. I didn’t even know what a PLN was until 8 years ago around this time actually. I was in the last PD session before we were out for Thanksgiving holidays. To say we were all ready to go was an understatement.
The PD was edcamp style and the last session was entitled, “Building a PLN.” I went to it because the others were all on academics areas and I wanted to learn something totally different.
However, I had no idea this session was about to change me in so many ways.
I went to the session and was introduced to Twitter. We all joined and I sent out my first tweet. I enjoyed the session but I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue using it. BUT…I was intrigued enough to give it a try.
My mom had recently had knee surgery so we all had to stay the living room most of the holiday since she was still recovering. We all sat around watching holiday movies and I thought it would be a good time to explore Twitter…”
You guessed it! It’s another guest post, this time from Kansas Middle School teacher Josh Stock.
“Every year hundreds of people attempt to climb 29,035 feet to the highest point in the world, the summit of Mt. Everest and every year hundreds of sherpa guides, porters and yaks make sacrifices to get them there. Without their help, most wouldn’t make it to the top alive, and many of them don’t come back. The life of a sherpa and porter comes with great risks. Most climb to provide for their families.
My classes talk about all of this while we read the novel Peak by Roland Smith. At one point in the book the main character, Peak is being filmed for a documentary and the film crew doesn’t want the sherpas, porters and yaks interrupting the shot. Peak yells at the film crew. He explains that without those sherpas, porters and yaks, none of them would be able to climb Mt. Everest. They help carry the needed supplies up the mountain and help guide the climbers when things get tough.
The sherpa guides help lessen the load of the climbers. After we discussed this point in the book, I asked the students: Who are your porters? Who can you not survive without? Who helps carry the burden when things get tough?”
Like what you’ve read? Keep reading at https://mrstockrocks.com/2018/11/07/who-is-your-guide-when-things-are-tough/
Social media can really skew our view of ourselves. I don’t know about you, but the more I see people’s perfect families, perfect houses, and perfect lives, it makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me. It can make my gratitude meter run a little low. However, in this month of gratitude, I want to be very intentional to be thankful for the imperfect.
Three Ways I’m Still Grateful for the Imperfect
Specifically in teaching, when you have a whirling dervish of thirty students or more, there will be imperfect moments. Plenty of them. It’s time, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, to be thankful for those classroom days that don’t always work out as they should. Or the things that seem to be imperfect expectations placed upon us. The tasks that we vow we wouldn’t put on people if we were in charge. If we take time to be conscious of what the blessings behind the imperfections are, we won’t have to yearn for someone else’s happy social media life; we might just have a happier life ourselves.
Imperfection #1: Others’ Expectations
It wasn’t the worst part of teaching, but having to write lesson plans wasn’t the best part either. When I taught at my most recent high school, we had to write very detailed lesson plans. I could get so stressed out trying to write exactly the perfect plan in case of observation and adding all the ways I was going to differentiate or substitute or color code. You get the drift.
But here’s the deal and the blessings in that imperfect expectation. Now I can teach anywhere. Ask me to go to a conference and I can quickly write at least a rough draft of my plan in no time. Ask me even to teach at church, and my lesson is ready to go. I now can form an outline in my head, and lesson planning for any situation is much quicker. As a tech coach, I’m able to quickly direct teachers in their own lesson planning to add the right technology application or lesson hook or check for understanding to their lessons. If I hadn’t worked so hard in my own lesson planning, which was definitely imperfect, I would never have been able to do any of what I can do now.
Imperfection #2: Technology
Oh technology. As a coach now but also as a classroom teacher, don’t I know that it the tech we love is sometimes the tech we love to hate. It’s imperfect when we need it to be more than that. When I was coaching in the middle school two years ago, our whole school launched OneNote pretty successfully. However, the very next year, our district decided to switch to Canvas Learning Management System. It was a great switch, however, the thing that people had just gotten used to they were now being asked not to use anymore.
It’s never ideal to launch something in a big way and then abandon it in favor of something else the next year. Here are the blessings I found in that in imperfect situation, though. By preparing ourselves with OneNote the year before, we now were doing things we never could have done before. We were no longer having to require kids to bring a pencil or remember to write a name on a paper or even keep up with a paper, for goodness sake. Even when technology doesn’t work, we’re still further along than we used to be. It gives us a chance as teachers to model perseverance despite frustration. It also allows us to break down the instant/microwave speed that students think should accompany every task. If we model viewing the positive through the imperfect, we and the students are able to practice the gratitude we say we celebrate this month.
Imperfection #3: My Own Failures
Probably the hardest place to forgive or even be thankful for imperfection is when we mess up as a teacher. I messed up so many times in the classroom, but one of my most recent snafus actually involves my first year as a tech trainer.
Picture this: I had ninety high school students in a room with no whiteboard on which to project my technology lesson, of all things. Recipe for disaster, right? Well, one of my pupils was a boy who had been very hateful the year before when I taught at the same school and had lunch duty. He never would clean up his trash and then would even have an attitude about it. Well of course I recognize this kid, so in a situation that was already frustrating, he and I exchanged some words. I felt terrible, of course, because I was the adult and should know how to be more professional. I let my emotions get in the way. The worst part was that this encounter was on a Friday, and I had to think about it all weekend. What did he think about my words? Worst of all, would he tell his parents on me, haha? Monday morning, I determined to be at his first period class. As soon as he got there so that we could talk, I was able to apologize to this kid, and he actually apologized to me as well. Come to find out, this kid could have been showing off for his friends in lunch was actually very pleasant in real life and very forgiving of me for having lost my temper.
Here’s what I learned from the situation; We can be thankful when we mess up because that disaster gives us an opportunity to be raw and vulnerable and model for student what it’s like to be human. To model for students what it’s like to apologize sincerely. To model for students what it’s like to eat some humble pie and be a little nervous when we’re worried that our actions will have bad consequences. In my story, three blessings came out of one situation that was imperfect for sure and could have been much worse.
The Takeaway: Grateful is Possible
Whether it’s the time we spend on our imperfect attempt to meet impossible requirements or the technology that doesn’t work when we really need it to or the times we mess up as people with our students, we must still be grateful. We are living a life that, although it’s not perfect, makes a difference in young people every day. What other job in the world allows one person to impact so many over the course of a career? In my sixteen years, I’ve impacted well over a thousand students. Some of them probably experienced a negative impact, but so many more were impacted for the positive. And whether I ever hear from them again, or whether I’m ever featured in their perfect social media post, I have something to be grateful for. And I don’t even to be perfect to appreciate it.
What have been your imperfect moments that still made you grateful? I’d love for you to share in the comments below.
I hope you enjoy this second guest post on our month of gratitude, one from Melissa Pilakowski.
“It’s been a stressful past two weeks. I was senior sponsor for Homecoming. We’ve had daily rehearsals for our one-act play. I’ve had observations by our local service unit and the department chair of our local college (and as much as I’d like to say that doesn’t make me nervous, it’s still an energy zapper).
I may or may not have eaten an entire bag of cheese popcorn and a bag of dark chocolate chips this weekend.
This was the first time this school year when I felt myself slipping under the water, where every time I crossed something off my to-do list, two more things popped up. I was simply surviving the days, dragging myself home, and procrastinating my ever-growing list. I was missing the proverbial forest for the trees–focusing only on what I had to do and forgetting about my long-term goals, my vision to help others, my commitment to my blog.
Welcome to November! I am most definitely NOT one of those people who skips straight to Christmas, thank-you-very-much…so that’s why I feel so privileged to have been asked to join a seasonal blog hop. Our theme for the whole month? Gratitude. Along with sixteen other educators, I will be putting my words about gratitude out into the world. I can’t wait for you to read, share, and love every single post. Who knows? You just mind find something else to be thankful for.
About Our Guest Writer
Our first grateful guest is Adam Powley, who lives near the beach in South Carolina, and enjoys teaching in a gamified high school social studies classroom. You know that word gamified sparks one of my passions for this blog, so his words will be extra special. Start reading below…
Words on Gratitude from our Guest
“There is an interesting phenomenon when two people are in a long term relationship. Eventually the two extended families’ traditions and customs begin to merge and combine. Early in my relationship with my wife I was invited to her family’s Thanksgiving day meal which was very different than my own family’s traditions. In my family Thanksgiving a day about hunting and football with a meal thought of as secondary. Growing up in rural western New York late November is both freezing cold and deer season.
My father and uncles would all wake up at 4am dress, have coffee, and meet in some frozen field, usually covered in snow, to go hunting. Before I was legally old enough to hunt I was dragged out on this tradition as a “runner”. My job was to run through the woods making noise in an effort to chase out any sleeping deer. Thankfully, one dinner didn’t rely on actually getting any venison because another part of this tradition was that no one ever actually shot a deer. In fact I don’t ever remember a shot being fired; not by choice of course I guess the deer were smarter than our hunting party…”
Want to read more? Visit Adam’s blog to see the rest of the post, and make sure to leave a comment telling him how much you loved it.