Monday, November 24, 2014

Little thank you notes


New page open. Favorite font selected (Century Gothic FYI). Writing commences.

Got some left over burrito.

Ate it.

Almost opened FB. DID NOT.

Watching puppy eat my grocery bag. Ok got it.



Ate the burnt piece of the burrito. Better than staring at the blank page. The ideas seem so clever as they formulate and percolate in my brain throughout the day. This is why I do not write them down. Because the writing part is the hard part. Where to start? How to slide into the topic- fluidly, humorously, with my own voice…

When I started teaching  almost 15 years ago in New Mexico, we had a really rough year. Our school community lost three students in a very short period of time. Weeks. Two were murdered and one was killed in a horrific car accident on the same route that I drove to school each day. 

One was in my 5th period Study Skills class and I stared at her empty desk every day. It was jarring for the kids and staff alike. The loss felt very real, very close like one could reach out and touch it. I had never lost a student before and their faces were on my mind every day for a long while.

The following Thanksgiving, on a whim, I handed all of my kids a piece of paper and I asked them to think about someone in the school community that they are grateful for. We talked about thankfulness and gratitude and appreciation. I asked them to write a simple ‘thank you statement:” a clear thank you, to a specific person, detailing a specific action that made a difference and sign his/her name.

I remember hoping I’d get a note or two. Every teacher wants to feel appreciated and as I sorted the notes into piles, I was floored by all the different people that the students were grateful for: the nurse, the janitor, the library assistant, the grumpy Social Studies teacher, the quiet kid and yes, me.  I had decided NOT to read the notes and just deliver them to the recipient, but I couldn’t resist opening a note or two.
Even more fulfilling was the hand delivering of these notes to each and every recipient. I started by explaining what we had done in class: the gratitude talk, the specific directions, it’s Thanksgiving time, blah, blah, blah. But then I soon realized all I needed to say as I handed the small scrap of paper over was someone is thankful for you.

I have returned to teaching after being away for ten years raising kids. It has not been an easy transition, but it has been a worthwhile one overall. This current school year, I find myself wandering through a job week to week with lots of doubt, insecurity, resentment and little gratitude ( my own that is). I took on a funky workload with not enough time in my contract to really do my job. I find myself in a school setting where the culture is unclear. Each family revolves in their own little home school world and it has been difficult to feel that connection teaching has always given me. I have moments to passion and breakthrough, but they don’t always inspire or lead to what happens next.

Tomorrow, the kids and I will talk about gratitude and the power of the words THANK YOU. We will all write little notes and I will deliver them with the message someone is thankful for you. I am going to start now.

Thank you Elbertha, for opening my door each morning when you get there first.

Thank you MJ for the lovely drawing you did of me being a teacher. It was a welcome gift on a low day.

Thank you Makena and Becky for thanking me for class each day.

Thank you Mary for reminding me to slow down and a teacher and a person.

Thank you Mrs. Titus for the kind, respectful way you communicated your displeasure with my curriculum. I felt listened to and considered
Thank you to the parents that gave me an opportunity to listen to their concerns and communicate my goals for my classroom.

Thank you to the seventh graders that have no trouble telling me they just don’t get it. We work at it a different way and then they work harder to get it. That is all I could ask for.

This year, I think the writing of the notes will be the best part for me.