Why We’re Thankful This November

Notes from the Classroom

A wise, literacy-loving turkey reflects on gratitude

The world may be full of strife, but this November, our ELA bloggers spent time reflecting on what they’re thankful for.

From generous colleagues to a twist in parent-teacher conferences, these are the reminders that we need–the reminders that can’t help but lift us up this time of year.

Our Lasting Impressions on Students

Driving into work on Halloween, Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue” was playing on the local classics station. (Some mornings, I listen to angry rap music–but that’s another piece for another time.) As I heard the intensity of the opening organ chords, I suddenly remembered my seventh grade music history teacher, Mrs. Moyes. I only had her for twelve weeks, but ever since that class, nostalgia would always wash over me when I heard those chords. Mrs. Moyes taught us a greatest hits of classical music, and to this day, my learning remains lasting and vivid for these songs. Every time I correctly identify one of these songs, it’s the same feeling I have when I know the final Jeopardy question. And every time, I smile to myself and think of Mrs. Moyes. As teachers, we only have our students for a small window of time. By early November, most of us are fatigued and counting the days to our Thanksgiving break. Sometimes I even question if all that I’m doing will make a lasting impact on my students. I’m thankful for this gentle reminder that my first twelve weeks with students is almost up. What will their “Toccata and Fugue” be? – Lauren Nizol  

What We Build as Teachers

I am thankful
for time spent building a culture;
a connection with my students,
my colleagues,
my family.
For in this time, we
build a community of respect,
responsibility, and reflective
peoples.
We build a place where individuals listen to understand,
not listen to respond.
We are in pursuit of more.
We work with purposefulness.
We are risk takers.
For this time,
I am thankful. – Tina Luchow

A Surprise in a Parent-Teacher Conference

I’m thankful for failing technology. At the start of this year’s parent-teacher conferences, as I rushed to log in to my grading program, I realized that I’d grabbed a Chromebook that wasn’t charged. No grades. Rather than waste the parent’s three-minute, pre-scheduled conference looking for a new computer, I opened up my workshop notebook and shared my notes about her student. We talked about the independent novels she’s read, the writing pieces she’s working on, the struggles I’m noticing she is having, and the successes she has had so far. It was one of the loveliest conversations I’ve ever had at conferences. The parent left knowing more about her daughter as a writer and reader, and we talked about her learning, rather than discussing a grade report that the mom can access anytime she wants. I never went back to get a new computer that night, and I don’t think I will ever use one at conferences again. I’m thankful the technology snafu forced me to talk about my student rather than just my students’ grades. – Hattie Maguire

How Educators Lift Each Other Up

I am writing this reflection after a whirlwind few days at the National Council of Teachers of English Convention and the National Writing Project Annual Meeting. First, I am incredibly thankful for this network of brilliant, dedicated, inspiring educators who offer so much of themselves to this profession. Once again, I have returned home with a pile of half-baked ideas, free books (!), and, most important, lots of hugs and joy to carry me through the months ahead. It takes a village to support an English teacher, and I am very thankful for my NWP and NCTE Village. I am also thankful that I can learn beside the incredible educators of Oakland County, especially the bloggers who share their stories here, who teach me and encourage me to continue to learn, question, and push for excellence in all opportunities for our learners. I leave work exhausted every day–in the best ways, because of the ways you inspire me to do better. If I had one wish for all you it is this: I wish you could set aside the grading for the long weekend and enjoy a well-deserved break! Happy Thanksgiving. – Andrea Zellner