Whoa Mama

Monday, November 11, 2013

the platitudes of gratitude

In a not-so-creative nod to the day of over indulgence, many of us have taken the challenge to express daily gratitude on Facebook. Now before I get to dismissive, I do live with a healthy, sincere, active sense of gratitude.There isn't a day when I don't thank God for the blessings of my life, including the strength to conquer the tough stuff.  I do largely enjoy the opportunity to publicly express some reflection but it doesn't stop an irreverent shout out to caffeine. It does seem that a catalog of one liners falls short of what I really feel blessed by.

So last week when I named *teachers* as the winners of the thankful lottery, it demanded more.

I have been reflecting all day on people who have had life changing effects on me and my family as their role as teachers.

There was the band teacher who suggested that I pick up the bassoon, which paved the way for serious character development through the awkward junior high school years. Mrs Hadrovik and Mrs Sufflita and John Smokowski who nurtured creativity through literature, art and drama. Madame Haenlin who told me I couldn't go to France with my minimal language skills. Screwing up determination, I worked harder and pushed hard to break through the barrier between me and le passé composé and other tense mysteries to spend an amazing 5 months in Paris and Provence. It was a once in a lifetime experience and came away with one of my very best friends.

While my own positive relationship with education and those who facilitate it has decades of fodder to inspire my gratitude (and the student loans to show for it), it is the teachers who have impacted my children that moved me to give more than a Facebook thanks.

As the mother of three young children, there were more than a few days when I dropped Sam at his few hours at the Buffalo JCC in tears from exhaustion. A few years later, I would almost gleefully get a wild pair of twins Happy Times after putting Sammy on the school bus and think, "Good Luck teachers. They've had syrup!!"

We have bright kids. Period. They are smart. Whether that is the luck of the genetic draw, my vicious, unrelentingly militant limits on screen time, Scott's extra 'challenges' or just that we didn't let them eat paint chips, they are academic liabilities. You read that right.  All three learn quickly, like doing well but will not challenge themselves for the achievement. They need not just to be pushed but to be balanced. I don't think it is luck, but the nature of teachers, that these boys love school and have so far done very well. That is all teacher.

Every teacher in every school has developed a connection to school and community. Every teacher we have ever had has bridged a relationship between the child and learning. We have been so privileged to literally hit the lottery at EVCS, with the boys in classes of 25 and at least 2 teachers in each class. From the first week, when the class took a walking field trip through their urban neighborhood to tour city hall, I knew we were in the right place. Then when Mrs. Sullivan spoke to Sam about challenging himself to learn different things than what he already knew, we were thrilled. She was also the teacher who had the vision to see that A&N could read a mature book on Harriet Tubman and facilitated a self-directed project. They did a 'moving poster' showing Harriet escaping her master after a vicious beating. They were 6.

There was Mrs. Ebony who gently and firmly insisted that kindergartners learn the value effective communication and Mrs. Gainey who wouldn't let a day pass without having 'stumped' Aidan and Noah on something. Mrs. Smith sets the bar high, works tirelessly to help all kids achieve that bar and demands their best. Mrs. MacDonald and Mrs. Leswing, who from Day One would not let Sam do anything but his very best while giving all fifth graders the respect and challenge to rise up to be 'middle schoolers'. The humor, honesty, creativity and energy that they brought every day kept my kid not at par, but challenged and engaged in a year when he could have gotten lost.

So my gratitude for teachers is a well-formed, deep, and unabiding. Each one of these remarkable people start each day giving their heart and soul to the future of children. Each one goes home every day to their own children and lives having made a difference in the fabric of the community.

Thank you.

ps -  I am posting this on Veterans Day and I'm not a good enough writer to tackle that, apart from saying that all of this, to you, 100 fold. Except if it is a room of 2nd graders then you might be on an even playing field with teachers. Gratitude abounds.


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