It’s nearly Thanksgiving or, for those of us who are Jewish, Thanksgivingukkah, probably the best mash-up ever. What could be better than gratitude and miracles? Pour gravy over your latkes and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
So because we all have cooking to do, I’ll keep it brief. Speaking for myself, I want to spend time with my mother, a former English teacher who just came in from Chicago; she is carrying a kindle filled with the books she’s reading for the courses she’s taking at Northwestern. My three children are also coming in from art school and colleges back East. And over Thanksgivingukkah, I’ll learn from them: I’ll learn about art and writing and filmmaking and all the different subjects my mother is studying. But I’ll also see again the ways that learning something new can change the way we see the world whether we’re eighteen, like my youngest, or seventy-nine, like my mother. In changing the way we see the world, we change who we are, which changes the people around us.
I am learning this year that education is not a destination. It is a way of living. We carry our education with us however long we live and no matter how far we travel. And with us, we carry the voices of the teachers who have taught us, inspired us, believed in us. For me, those voices will always include my mother, my late father, my husband and now my children, as well as all the people who have taught them.
This year, I also carry the voices of the teachers who have so generously opened their classrooms to me. To Jennifer Macon at Cleveland Humanities Magnet, Dennis Danziger at Venice High, Robe Roberson at Campbell Hall, Cynthia Castillo at Augustus Hawkins, Laura Press at Hamilton High and Barry Smolin at Hamilton Humanities Magnet, all of whom I’ve written about, as well as Ben Arnold at South Pasadena High, Kristin Damo at Locke High and Jeremy Michaelson at Harvard-Westlake: thank you for reminding me why teaching matters. Watching your generosity, your creativity, your strength and your passion reminds me of what a dignified and meaningful career teaching can be when it’s done by a master. From the back of the class, I see the way your students listen to you, even the ones who are pretending not to listen. That kid who’s wandering around the room pestering everyone? Trust me: he’s hanging on your every word. He’s just too proud to show it. And when you say “good job,” after you’ve turned around, he’s glowing.
Thank you to all of you who read this blog and whose comments often challenge and change the way I see things. I am learning so much from you.
A couple years ago, one of my craziest classes ever had a surprise birthday party for me, ordering pizzas, bringing in doughnuts, blasting music and breaking about a million school rules. As I tried in vain to contain the damage, I laughed so hard I nearly cried. “I may not be the best teacher in the world,” I wrote in my journal that night, “but I am definitely the luckiest.” I feel that way about this blog. I may not be the best blogger in the world—what does that even mean?–but I am definitely the luckiest. Thank you for joining me on this journey.
Happy Thanksgivingukkah. Here’s to gratitude and miracles, Puritans and Maccabees and all of our ancestors from so many cultures who fought so hard for a home. No matter what your religion is, I hope that you get eight presents. And if there’s a teacher at your table, please pour a little extra gravy over their latkes from me.
For further thoughts on why teachers are amazing, see my post today in LA School Report. Also, a post from this blog called “The Kid I Didn’t Kill” has been re-posted in EdSource Today. Have a wonderful holiday, everyone!