The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. “She expressed her gratitude to the committee for their support.”
I recently moved after living in the same neighborhood, same building, practically same apartment (we moved several times within the building) for over ten years. Sure the moving is treacherous… we have so much stuff! But the real difficulty is the new everything. New grocery store, new park, new subway line, new dry cleaner, new restaurants, new drug store—new everything. And as when you learn anything new, it feels hard. Our grocery store is NOT Fairway (the best grocery store in NYC in my opinion), the drug store is not across the street, the train doesn’t come every 5 min., and the dry cleaning doesn’t deliver. Yeah, yeah…spoiled…Yes, I was spoiled for 10 years, and was probably not very grateful.
I am realizing something big in this move about gratefulness and gratitude…in order to have these qualities, you have to be positive.
I can focus on what I did have (and, believe me, I have been doing that) or I can focus on what I do have, and look at the positive in that. An apartment with lots more space, a private patio, my own office, much more affordable, and a beautiful park with stunning sunsets two blocks away.
Change can be tough. When I first left the classroom to be a district staff developer. it was hard. I was housed in a massive office building, I wasn’t at schools often, and adjusting to working with teachers vs. kids who hang on your every word was not fun. I longed for the classroom, I ached for it, really. My kind, concerned boss would do anything to make me happy. She even allowed me to set up a model classroom at my old school and let that be my office instead of the sterile department of education building. I wanted back into my classroom. I couldn’t see the gift I was given. Of course I was beyond honored to take this new position. I didn’t have to interview. I was asked to take it. How could someone say no.? How could someone not be grateful?
Which leads me to the other realization around gratitude—be present.
So many things occur when you are a thirteen-year-old girl. You body is becoming an adult, your hormones are raging (which means you are starting to notice this guy—or girl– is HOT!), and you are discovering what matters to you. The summer I was thirteen we moved to a beach house in Fort Myers. At first it was devastating. I made All-stars in softball that year, but couldn’t play in the tournament because my father transferred to Fort Myers for work. I left my friends, my school, and the one thing I knew I was good at to move three hours away. Little did I know that summer I would not just discover the most beautiful blond boy, but I also discovered my real passion—walking on the beach at sunset (in hopes to see that blond boy). From that summer on, sunset walks became a ritual. The beach was my sanctuary and the one place I could think. I am still figuring out who I am, but I am grateful for this passion I discovered at thirteen to help me. We need to be passionate.
I am finishing up my second full year in a district in Maryland. This is a district where the coaches and curriculum leader are the best of the best and the teachers are even better. I met one of the teachers at my first summer writing institute/retreat I did there two years ago—Kim. After that summer, I saw her a few times across the year when she visited schools where I was doing classroom demonstrations. She was always positive, and always passionate, and always present. A joy to be around. However, I didn’t really know her. This year, she became one of the literacy coaches and she taught me the true meaning of gratitude. She was brand new to coaching. She loved teaching, but she was honored to be a coach. From the very first institute she attended as a coach, she stood out. “Christy what can I get you? What do you need? How I can help?” She jumped in and just did things. She carried chart paper, passed out handouts, and encouraged participants to sit up close. Whatever I needed, she did. And with a smile on her face and thrilled to be able to do. I kept thinking, was she for real?
Then she started her coaching job. Sure, she had some hiccups at first, but she knew—be positive, be passionate, and be present. Luckily for her, she worked with a team of amazing and supportive coaches. She worked hard to gain the trust from her teachers. She went into classrooms always working with kids, or asking teachers what she could do. She asked them “how can I help? Can we plan together? I have a cycle scheduled with you, how do you want that to go—we can side by side teach, we can jigsaw the lesson together, we can plan it together—how can I help?” She works at an amazing school with a super supportive principal who lets her shine. He said to me in September, “Kim works hard, and when she says she will do something, she does it. She is present and doesn’t let the teachers down.”
I just finished my last visit at her school. Kim sits right next to her teachers proud and tall and makes everyone of them feel special. The teachers applaud her in front of me and thank her publicly for all that she’s done. Teachers who were quiet last year, are talking and positive. Like Kim.
That same week, I taught at another school in a brand new teacher’s third grade class. She came to the institute last summer and implemented everything right down to the love of the notebooks.
When I told her how impressed I was with her kids writing volume, her classroom environment, and her notebooks, she replied, “it’s all them”—pointing to the kids. Kim was her supervising teacher. Gratitude spreads.
What can we do to spread this attitude of gratitude:
- Compliment teachers whenever you can
- Highlight the work teachers are doing–create bulletin boards with pictures of teachers teaching, kids writing, charts, classroom environment
- Compliment when grades work collaboratively at a faculty meeting
- Compliment at a faculty meeting when a teacher tries something new, a lesson or a unit
- Be in awe of student work and compliment what the teacher must have done to make this happen
- Give notes of gratitude to teachers
- Read the The Thank You Book by Mo Willems at an end of the year faculty meeting and have teachers stand for who/what they are thankful for
- Listen more and speak less at team meetings
- If you are able, get what teachers need immediately (books, lessons, charts, units, etc). Quick follow through goes a LONG way
- Recognize that the work is hard and problem solve and compromise
- Share writing mentors (student work, articles, picture books, teachers’ text) and read them as if they’re gold. Then share some teaching ideas from them
- Model lessons for teachers that highlight that teaching writing is life changing–actually use those words with kids–life changing, powerful work, this work matters, you have a voice that needs to be heard, you have the power in your heart and brain and magic pen!
- Share writing gurus and their works of art. Gurus such as Ralph Fletcher, Georgia Heard, Don Graves, Roy Peter Clark, Katie Wood Ray, Lucy Calkins, Don Murray and Anne Lamott
I am so grateful for the opportunities I have had in education. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that a young mom and wife who went to college a bit late would be able to work in a district like Pinellas where writing and the best writing mentors supported you, for an organization like Teachers College Reading and Writing Project and live in New York City, and then to independently consult traveling all around the world meeting the most fascinating people. I am truly grateful for that, but mostly I am grateful for Kim and her grace. She reminds me to be positive, passionate and present especially when things are hard like a move and oh yeah, teaching, coaching, and leading.
Share who and what you are grateful for, actually,
Christy & Monique