This week, although short, gave new meaning to the word “thanks” for both obvious and abstract reasons. Obviously, the instructional week was cut down to two days due to the Thanksgiving holiday, and planning for an abbreviated week was a relief, for which I was thankful. Also, I happen to love Thanksgiving because there isn’t any other national holiday where everyone is encouraged to reflect on what they are most grateful for, and I desperately needed to reflect and remind myself of the numerous things I am grateful for.
In concrete terms, I am grateful for my student teaching placement, my cooperating teacher, and the colorful characters and students I interact with daily. They remind me of how diverse and interesting the world is. I am grateful for them because they have afforded me a glimpse into my own future as an educator, and in that future I see myself in a career that actually requires me to constantly learn and grow. Teaching is a fascinating profession. It is an occupation that allows for as much or as little upward mobility as I want and at a pace I am comfortable with. It’s also fascinating because of how mainstream society views it. Teaching is typically described as: noble, honorable, difficult, vital, necessary, underappreciated, satisfying, and (my favorite) thankless.
ThankLESS. I find this adjective particularly intriguing because the implication is that teachers are taken for granted, or teaching is unrewarding, and although that may be true in the midst of a year, semester, or even on a daily basis, the ultimate truth is that this job is only deemed thankless by those who are looking for thanks in the first place. Teachers can’t afford to be appreciated while they are teaching because the learning process requires time, and any educator who is looking for gratitude on a daily basis from current students is in the wrong profession.
The past few months of student teaching have given me some of the most frustrating experiences of my life, partially due to the various professional obstacles and partially due to the lack of consideration I have felt from stakeholders (students, parents, administrators), but in spite of the aggravations, I have actually witnessed learning and the satisfaction of knowing that I caused it. My students may not realize it now, but I trust they will someday, and that’s when I’ll get to feel appreciated.
Unfortunately, I may not be present for those moments when students realize that I taught them something crucial. I suppose that is the part of the job that is thankless, but it’s only hypothetically thankless. If I continue to do my job well, have confidence in what I’m teaching, and remember to be grateful for what this profession offers me, in tangible terms, then I don’t ever have to feel unappreciated.
Of course it’s difficult to keep my chin up everyday, but I trust that my future holds at least a few students who will come back to me to say, “Thanks for that lesson on (propaganda techniques, language emphasis, creative writing, etc.) way back when I was in your (7th, 8th, 9th…) class. It was really fun, and I learned a lot.” As long as I hold onto that hope, I will never feel this job is thankless.
One more note on gratitude: This Master’s program has been an incredible journey, and I am so grateful for having the opportunity to gain experiences as a student and a teacher. I hope I never forget how it feels to be a student, but I also hope to become the best teacher I can be. I have been walking a tightrope for several months, and this holiday weekend reminded me that my lessons aren’t for me, but for my students. As much as I enjoy crafting intricate, worthy, and engaging lessons, I can’t treat lesson planning as my own projects to be evaluated, or else I run the risk of feeling dejected and unappreciated when they don’t work exactly as I envision. That’s what the Thankless Monster feeds on. I suspect it will always be a struggle to create customized lessons for people who may not see the value in them until long after they’ve left my classroom, but I can take solace in the fact that I am doing work that will benefit the majority... eventually.