Teacher Thanksgiving List
The last few weeks have been fairly raw emotionally. The election brought into question and doubt a lot of things that I had taken for granted about our great country and society. I’ve gone from shock to anger to acceptance (I use that term loosely in reference to acceptance of our new reality versus living in some bizarro dream) to action.
I have tried to “go high when they go low” and I think that I’ve been mostly successful with a few notable exceptions. I need to transform my anger into positive energy. For myself as much as for those around me. While anger can energize, I tend to take Yoda at his word that anger leads to hate which leads to the dark side of life. More important and relevant are the words of Martin Luther King Jr. He so wisely reminds us that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” His words are prescient to this day. So while some in this new administration may talk about darkness being good, we must focus on the light.
So on this day of reflection with friends and family, here is my public attempt at transforming my anger into positive action, my fear into the courage to act, and my temptation to go low into an effort to always aim high.
The following is a list of things that I am thankful for in no particular order. It is not a numbered or ranked list because I don’t believe that we can quantify such things on a day such as this.
I am Thankful for Today
I am thankful for the chance to be with those that matter most to me and whom I love dearly. I appreciate the opportunity to tell them in person that “I love you” one more time. I am grateful for the chance to catch my breath and to reflect.
I am Thankful for Martin Luther King Jr.’s Legacy, Leadership, and Guidance
The man faced more hardship and greater challenges than I can possibly imagine. His light dwarfs anything that I have to offer, but that won’t keep me from attempting to reflect a fraction of his great example. He left a legacy worth looking to for leadership today. His actions spoke loudest of all, but his words provide more than worthy guidance.
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
“Never succumb to the temptation of bitterness.”
“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”
“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
*Source that I used for the quotes: http://parade.com/252644/viannguyen/15-of-martin-luther-king-jr-s-most-inspiring-motivational-quotes/
I am Thankful for the Opportunity to Teach
180 days a year in the great state of Washington, parents allow me the privilege of teaching their children. They entrust me with the people that they hold dearest. Some are well off where I teach but most are struggling to get by and work multiple jobs. Some come from generations of Americans, most are first or second generation American. Some speak English as a first language, while others speak one of the 150ish languages spoken across my district. Some are Christian, many are Muslim, as well as Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, and many more faiths. I am thankful for the opportunity to teach, mentor, and guide these students. I am grateful for the leadership opportunity in the community, and that this enables me to be a positive change agent for the betterment of society. They are a diverse group, and the opportunity to work with them adds immeasurable meaning to my life.
I am Thankful for Friends and Family
I am thankful for all of my friends and family. I love my amazing wife and my beautiful daughter. I am so grateful to be her father. I also appreciate the opportunity to work towards creating a world that I would be okay raising her in. There’s some work to do because I don’t feel that way at the moment. Which is why I must work to do my part.
I am even thankful for friends and family with whom I disagree politically. These are people with whom I converse and dialogue and share my daily experiences. They do not agree in so many ways because they do not understand. I am thankful for the opportunity to change their minds, and more importantly for the chance to change their hearts.
I am Thankful for Our Leaders
I am thankful for our leaders. Presidents who provide the class and leadership that Barack Obama does are rare and once in a generation. Like her or not, Hillary Clinton has certainly done her part to facilitate the peaceful transitions upon which our pluralistic democracy depends. I am even thankful for Donald Trump, because at the very least I predict that he has managed to galvanize a movement for civil rights unlike anything this country has seen in recent memory. Not his intention, nor the circumstances under which we’d prefer, but this is a domestic call to action unlike anything most living generations have witnessed. And, yes, I still pray for the man. I believe whole-heartedly that the worst thing you could ever wish upon your enemy is a sudden change of heart for love and understanding of what their actions truly mean. The knowledge of damage done weighs upon a heart that cares far more than a calloused one. And Donald Trump is not our enemy, he is our president-elect. While he is so far proving not to be a friend to all Americans, the analogy of rooting for him to completely fail being like rooting for the pilot of a plane that we are all on to crash seems apt. For this reason, also, we must hold him accountable every step of the way, because holding elected officials accountable is what empowered citizens do in a free democratic society.
More so than the leaders of our present, I am thankful for the leaders of our past. Those true leaders who stand larger than life and whose legacy provides guidance for our personal calls to action: Martin Luther King Jr., Susan B. Anthony, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and so many more.
I am Thankful to be American
I am grateful to live in this great country which is arguably the greatest country on Earth. One election doesn’t change that fact as long as we Americans don’t let it. We must continue to move forward and not slip backward, because we are stronger together. As an American, I am in a unique position to help protect what this country stands for… past, present, and future.
I am Thankful for Fellow Teacher Leaders
I have been reading through and reflecting upon the leadership shared by my fellow teacher leaders through various networks: CORElaborate, WATeachLead, Twitter, NBCT’s, NEA, etc. I am constantly in awe at the tasks faced by my fellow teachers and the adversity that they overcome. Teachers are change agents and care takers in a society that sometimes values neither while lending lip service to the contrary. My fellow teachers give me strength, and for this I am thankful.
I am Thankful for the Opportunity to Effect Change
I am grateful that I am in a position to effect positive change through my sphere of influence. I’ve been reflecting intently upon what this might mean, and I think it means to sharpen my focus on the areas of education where I am already working to counter the potentially negative influence of the next four years. I am passionate about equity in STEM education for all students, and I commit to doubling down on my effort these next four years. I resolve to not be silent and to engage in effecting change where I can, and to speak out against the dangers where I cannot. I hope to better study the examples of past leaders, better love my friends and families, and be true to myself and my heart and principles as I seek to better the world around me with integrity.
I am Thankful for Faith
I am thankful for faith in our democracy, faith in humanity, and faith in God. My religion is my source of strength and faith in a better world, and I hope that your source of faith provides equal measure of strength in the face of our current adversity. Regardless of religion, race, political ideology, and the list goes on but we are all facing this adversity together. Let us do so in a way that is true to the better facets of humanity.