Thanksgiving is my
favorite holiday, hands down. Spending time with families and friends. Eating
entirely too much food. Most importantly, stopping to think about the things in
life we’re most grateful for.
This past Sunday, my
pastor began his sermon by explaining that he was very aware Thanksgiving had
already come and gone, but he’d never had the opportunity to preach a
Thanksgiving message and was not going to miss the chance, even if it did come
a few days late. Toward the end of the sermon, he read a list of things that he
was thankful for: the early morning sound of the alarm clock, sore muscles at
night, mortgage payments and income taxes. Obviously, this is a pretty strange
list, but he went on to give reasons why he was thankful for these things. The
early morning sound of the alarm clock is a reminder that he has life another
day. Sore muscles at night mean he was able to be productive. The mortgage
payment is a reminder that he’s blessed with a warm home. Income taxes are paid
because he has a job and the ability to work.
immediately reminded me of the little parts of being a special educator that I
complain about (mostly to myself). Those things that, at times, I feel certain
will drive me crazy and, to be frank, just get on my nerves. So, I decided to
think about these things from a new perspective and developed a list of the top
five things I’m thankful for as a special educator.
I’m thankful for the process of finagling everyone’s schedule to set up a
meeting, filling in new assessments, writing new goals and objectives, making
sure everyone signs on the right line and filing the stack of papers associated
with the document away in my students’ folders in the correct spots. I’m
thankful for this process because it reminds me that someone cared enough about
my students and other students with disabilities that they made sure they were
receiving a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the Least
Restrictive Environment (LRE) and put accountability measures, such as the IEP,
in place to ensure it happened. I’m thankful for re-assessing and writing new
goals because it means we’ve made progress, and past goals have been met.
I’m thankful for the nearly 50 page document I have to compile for each of my
14 students (either be typed or written in blue ink), which includes writing
example activities, recording data, collecting signatures and demonstrating
that students were instructed in various environments and with ample opportunities
to make choices. I’m thankful for the tedious process of alternate assessment
because it means students with severe disabilities are now being educated with
the peers they were so long kept separate from. They remind me that high
expectations have been set for my students, too, no matter their disabilities. I’m
grateful for the many words that will be typed or written in blue ink on the
portfolio documents, because I know someone will take the time to read each
word and see the progress each student has made in a year’s time.
3. A noisy
“free choice” area
I’m thankful for the loud clamor of voices and materials that comes from the
“free choice” area of my classroom twice each day. I’m thankful for the “quiet
downs” and “it’s too louds” that are spoken by myself and my assistants during
“free choice” times. These sounds mean my students have followed the class
expectations, made responsible choices and are now enjoying a few precious
moments of structured leisure activities and valuable social skills practice.
4. An empty
I’m thankful for constantly having to round up more paper to add to the paper
pile my students use to do morning work, class work, draw or write on. I’m thankful
that they sometimes grab worksheets I’ve freshly copied for lessons later in
the day and use the backs of them to do their morning work or to figure out a
math problem. These missing papers remind me that my students are being
responsible and completing their work, demonstrating more writing skills and
using classroom resources independently to figure out problems.
“Miss Kaylie” approximately 100 times every day
I’m thankful for the constant ringing of my name in the classroom. I’m thankful
for hands that shoot up as soon as I begin speaking to the class about a lesson
or an assignment. I’m thankful for the many “I need help!” or “I can’t do
this!” or “This is too hard!” utterances. The frequent calling of my name, hand
raises and pleas for help remind me that my students are present. They are in
an environment where they can learn and grow, and I’m privileged to be part of
that. The repeated requests for help are evidence my students are being
challenged and that learning and growth is taking place.
how looking at things I would probably have put on a top five most annoying
parts of my job list begin to look much different when viewed from a different
perspective, from an attitude of gratitude. Even though Thanksgiving has come
and gone, I challenge you to think about those things in your classroom that
you definitely wouldn’t describe yourself as thankful for, and look at them in
a new light. Make your own top five lists. I’d love to hear what you’re most
thankful for in your classrooms!