I instruct my students to avoid clichés in their writing, but here’s the truth: I woke up on the first day of Thanksgiving Break feeling grateful. My husband was reading in bed next to me, my kids were foraging breakfast for themselves in the living room, and I was layered under multiple blankets, our cat snuggled against me, just grateful beyond measure for the life I get to live.
I’m thankful for my family, of course, and our continued wellness through this difficult year. My kids are healthy and growing in joyful leaps and bounds. They take care of each other and make each day a hilarious (if sometimes frustrating) adventure. Their teachers (my daughter's in person and my son's on Zoom) have been amazingly resourceful and flexible since the start of the school year. They are in the best possible hands, and it's no wonder that they're thriving.Their proud smiles have brightened my darkest moments.
My husband has been nothing short of miraculous this year, and I struggle not to feel extremely smug about my decision to marry him all those years ago. When I’ve needed support, he’s been there, and he’s allowed me to do the same for him. There have been so many changes this year, but we’re still copy-editing each other’s writing, bringing each other hot tea in Spider-Man mugs, and talking about books and nonsense at the end of the night.
Outside of my immediate household, I have multiple family members who contracted and have recovered from COVID. I am endlessly grateful for their health, knowing that so many others’ stories have ended in grief and devastation.
I’m grateful for sweat pants and fuzzy slippers and the other perks of teaching on Zoom.
Over the past eight months, I’ve connected with fellow teachers across the district and beyond. It’s helped me to feel less alone, and, whether it’s sarcasm in a group chat or tearful rants in department meetings, I appreciate the opportunity to be authentic with each other when so much of our job feels life perpetual game-face.
It has been a season of impossible decisions, and I am grateful for the people who are keeping long hours trying to make sense of it all. I don’t always agree with the outcomes of these decisions, but I know that my higher-ups at my school and in the district offices are intelligent, empathetic, and highly capable. I’m thankful that they’re in charge. A special shout-out to Keisha Irving (my principal), Jenn Crockett (our district’s high school English Curriculum Lead), and Jill Baker (our superintendent), who are rookies in their positions this school year and are leading with grace in a historically turbulent time.
I’m thankful for the unexpected joy we’ve found since March. For the ice cream truck who idles outside of our house every day because he knows we’re a sure thing. For our neighbors who bring us donuts every Friday and our friends who surprise the kids with water balloon ambushes and front yard magic shows. For music making on our front porch and s’mores from our backyard fire pit.
And, to close with another cliché, I’m grateful for my students. My greatest fear at the end of the summer was that I wouldn’t be able to make meaningful connections with my students virtually. But they’ve trusted me with their hopes and dreams. They’ve told me their preferred pronouns. They’ve stayed after class to share the heartaches their families are going through. I wish I could hug them, but I’m thankful that they’ve found some comfort in my willingness to listen and offer fumbling advice.
Some days, my students' resilience and good humor feel like more than I deserve. They have watched me struggle with technology, laugh at myself, and literally trip over my own feet, and they keep showing up. They are calling into class from different time zones and they’re constantly getting disconnected. They’re apologizing profusely for bad microphones and distracting background noise and I’m responding with the absolute truth: “I’m just glad you’re here. Thank you.”