Thankfuls about Teaching

I have just spent all afternoon grading a test on American Democracy and the West, and I am tired.

But on Friday, after my last class, during the peace of a seventh period planning hour, I was sorting through paper and books and I thought to myself, “Oh, I like my job.” Please note: that is the first time that thought has ever “risen unbidden,” in my mind, as they say. That is the first time this year that I have been able to be thankful for my circumstances without prompting.

Not that prompting is a bad thing. A prompting to be grateful is the conscience. A prompting to be grateful is the Holy Spirit. But when, every once in a while, thankfulness arises easily (as it should) then that is grace and I will celebrate.

So here I am, a few days later, trying with all my little might to catch the tail-end of that spontaneous gratitude. I am going to tell you what I love about teaching.

I am thankful for my students. I am thankful for the students who ask questions, especially those questions that begin with something other than “What do we need to know about…” or “Did we go over…” I am thankful for the students who take responsibility for their actions and attitudes. I am thankful for the students whose hands shoot up like air-propelled rockets during class discussion. I am thankful most of all, perhaps, for the students who work so hard that, no matter the final grade, I can feel the sheer effort and earnestness radiating off each page they write for me. I hope they know that I love them, and sometimes even admire them.

I am thankful for the people I teach with. I am thankful for their advice and trust and constant, present support. I am thankful for the pumpkin-shaped basket full of candy in the workroom. I am thankful to sit on roll-y chairs around a big table and eat lunch with them each day. Last week, when there was an open mic hour in forum to for students to thank the teachers, I wanted so badly to get in line with the rest of the kids who were waiting to speak. I am grateful for the sanity these men and women bring. But most of all I am grateful for—more than grateful for, awed by—their steadfast compassion and prayers both for my students and myself. I ceased to be their pupil years ago, but they are still teaching me so much.

And I am thankful for teaching itself. At its best, teaching is a little bit like writing in real-time. (I guess, at its worst, it’s like that too. Like a really poorly organized essay that doesn’t have a thesis statement or even a prompt…) I am thankful for test-writing, which I have quickly discovered is the secret glory of teaching. I am thankful to be pushed to study and then communicate history which I know is shaping me as I watch it shape my students. Stories, especially those that really happened, have the powerful effect of washing over in waves and re-shaping the clay of my soul.

At the core, I suppose I am most thankful to be part of something which is so much bigger than I. In the grand scheme of the educations of these forty-five people, I am the least important facet. Certainly for now, they rely on me, and because of that, as the apostle James says, I’ll be held to a higher standard, so I must give my utmost and beyond. But the responsibility for their minds and the “weight of their glory,” as Lewis would call it does not end with me. I am thankful that though the calling before me may sometimes feel like a burden laid upon my back, we are never asked to carry a burden any farther than Golgotha. At the foot of the Savior, we may drop our weights and duties, for they were His to begin with, and we may worship with empty hands.

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