Thankful For Challenges

Did you ever notice that those #ThankfulThursday posts all over social media don’t list flat tires, burned dinners, or failed lessons among the comments? I’m one of the first people to recognize the hand of the universe on even the most mundane moments of good fortune—a nice parking spot, rainbows and a hot cup of coffee, but when it comes time to be thankful for the challenges I face, it is sometimes a struggle to keep smiling through the experience. However, when November rolls around, even I can find ways to be thankful for the challenges. Here are a few that have made me a little more reflective:

 

Co-Workers Who Step Up

Teachers have a special problem when it comes to being absent. It is much easier just to drag yourself into school than it is to try to figure out lesson plans. Even worse, there are times when you simply don’t have a choice in the matter—you can not work because you cannot work, since you will be spending the day within a foot of your bathroom, perhaps lying on the floor.

Or, in my case, when I spent one Monday a few weeks ago drooling on myself at the hospital for a migraine that had me convinced I was dying. For reasons I don’t remember, the migraine medicine had to be accompanied by a giant dose of Benadryl, which left me sleeping in a wheelchair awaiting further tests at the hospital. Luckily, before all this went down, I had the wherewithal to hand my phone to my husband and say, “Text Laura and Meg. They’ll know what to do.” And they did. Just like always. Celebrate those co-workers who step up for you when you need them, and look around for ways to help those who might be having a less-than-perfect day. You have to appreciate the fact that Laura even signed my name!

 

Less-Than-Perfect Field Trips

I don’t plan field trips. The anxiety would make me insane; however, I love going on them when my duties are limited to not losing children and acting as the responsible adult, because I can usually do that. We have an amazing resource nearby, the Tifft Nature Preserve, and on Friday my team of teachers took 115 middle school kiddos for some awesome science experiences. There was a very real fear of rain; so as the conditions kept changing, I watched my weather app almost as attentively as I do for snow days. I did not want to spend the day freezing and wet.

Luckily, the weather held out, and I had the opportunity to see my students in another light. For example, I had been assigned the medical backpack, and I just didn’t want to carry it. When I asked for a volunteer, Blake immediately offered to carry it for me, which he did for the entire day of walking (and in his case running). I was really impressed by his kindness when it would have been easy just to ignore my request. In a group of six boys and three girls, I also experienced what it would be like to herd kittens. We had a good day, and even if it was less than perfect (a lost packet, wet feet and the fact that I literally had to chase boys through the woods because, well, they are eighth-grade boys), I got to know these kiddos in a way  I never would in the classroom. In fact, I have a feeling that we’ll be laughing at the “less than perfect” parts all year.

 

Quarterly Fresh Starts

I recently blogged about my experience trying to implement Genius Hour. Let’s just say I’m bailing, and you can read about it here. Don’t worry, I’m not really giving up that easily, but I am revamping for a better experience for everyone, actually reverting to what I’ve done over the last several years. I love the fact that we all get a clean slate when the quarter changes, allowing both my students and me to take risks in our learning. This type of fresh start is so important when encouraging students to keep trying, even when they aren’t successful with a particular unit. One of the key takeaways from my own not-so-successful Genius Hour implementation is that I had not researched enough and tapped into the experts who already are out there. I really wish I had studied this resource from Volusia United Educators before I had forged ahead. It is an effective, step-by-step guide to the brainstorming phase, which is exactly where I think I dropped the ball. In my excitement to get going, I didn’t give this important step the time it needed.

No one wants a migraine, wet feet and an improvised jog through the woods, or a flopped lesson, but these are challenges I am grateful for. Sure, I’m not going to start a hashtag or anything, but it was through these challenges that I’ve been able to experience grace and gratitude in the midst of the mundane, day-to-day teacher life, and for that I’m thankful.