The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Giving Thanks

I feel like I have had a lot of posts this year that have hinted at frustration with my job, with my students, and with the slow progress we have been making in establishing a strong classroom community. While I don’t want to diminish those feelings, which I believe are perfectly valid and understandable, I also don’t want the casual reader of this blog to think that I am one of those teachers who blogs simply to vent.

Because I’m not and I don’t.

As a matter of fact, my blogging has become a way for me to proclaim, loudly and publicly, that I love my job and I love my students even though I am frustrated as can be with some of the things that are happening and, perhaps more importantly, not happening. I am very grateful for the opportunity I have had for the past five and a half years to do what I do. This is, after all, the job I dreamed of having since I was in fourth grade. It is still my dream job even if, yes, I am hoping to eventually move from classroom leadership to building leadership as I transition from classroom teacher to building principal.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t love my job because, again, I really, really, really do. Anyone who has ever talked to me in person knows that there are some topics that will get me going for hours on end and what I do every single day as a teacher is one of those topics. (Other topics include books, tabletop gaming, and British television.)

As the last hour or so of the annual Thanksgiving Day observance in the United States approaches, I wanted to express gratitude for the teachers, principal, staff, parents, and students who have made my job at Wiley Elementary School the wonderful experience it has been. In keeping with my blogging norms, I will not name them by name, but know this:

  • My principal is wonderful; she cares, she supports, she encourages, she directs, she leads.
  • My fourth grade partner this year (number five in six years) has been wonderful! We are learning together as we navigate a new math curriculum and as we change and adapt to the needs of our students.
  • The fifth grade team makes me proud to say that I taught roughly half of their students. These two wonderful women (plus the long-term substitute who is covering maternity leave for one of them) are passionate about challenging their students, holding them to high standards of leadership, and preparing them for the oh-so-scary world of middle school.
  • The third grade team does a great job of teaching and guiding, preparing their students for my classroom while maintaining wonderful relationships with them after they move to my room.
  • The second grade teachers are a powerhouse of experience and they never make me feel weak or inferior when I come in to ask for help or advice, nor do they shy away from asking a much newer teacher (me) for technology assistance.
  • The first grade teachers are delightfully wacky and quirky but they know how important their work is and they make sure their students are learning and growing every single day.
  • The kindergarten teachers started at Wiley the same year I did, although one has gone from second grade to first grade to kindergarten. They are two of my closest friends at work and their passion for early childhood education amazes me.
  • Our office secretaries are so patient with students, with families, and with teachers! I cannot imagine Wiley without them, although I still miss our previous office manager/secretary who retired this year.
  • Our new custodian (who started this year after our previous custodian also retired and promptly moved to Florida), is great with students, smiling and talking to them but making sure they know that they had better not make a mess in the bathrooms!
  • Our special education teachers are an amazing team that works hard to make sure we are meeting the needs of our students with special needs. The teacher who works directly with my students has been especially supportive of helping me find ways to increase the sense of community in my room.
  • Our two reading interventionists are another powerhouse team that have worked together for more years than I can say, yet they are continually learning and improving in what they do.
  • Our other specialists, such as our speech and language pathologist, our social worker, and our school psychologist, are always on the go and yet they are always ready to provide advice, counsel, or just to listen if I need to talk.
  • Our fine arts teachers are amazing individuals who share their passion for music, for visual arts, and the performing arts in a way that makes each student know that the arts are just as important as academic subjects.
  • Our new PE teacher has been a huge blessing to our building! Not only do our students receive a higher quality level of physical education than when teachers were doing it on our own, but he also works with us to identify ways we can improve play during recess. (And I am able to collaborate with my grade level partner twice a week every week now!)
  • The other professionals who pop in and out of our building throughout the week are no less important. Whether they are working with students with specialised needs or teaching band and strings or providing instructional coaching, I see them and I appreciate them.

If not for these amazing women and men, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. They inspire me every single day and I hope that I am a positive influence on them and their students, as well. So on this day of giving thanks, to my wonderful colleagues, while I know it isn’t nearly enough, I say thank you. You really are the best colleagues I could hope for!

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