Five Gifts Received

Last month, I posted my list of seemingly little things that amazingly disrupt how I teach each day. Today, I’d like to turn the tide a bit and list gifts that I received that have made my job more rewarding and have motivated me to work harder to ensure my students achieve. These gifts don’t have monetary value – they cannot be purchased or wrapped up and placed under a tree.  But the gifts hold great value for me.

  1.  A principal with an open door to her office. No matter what my concerns are—funds for a field trip, feedback on how I handled a student discipline concern, or getting a signature for a grant application—my principal makes herself available to students and faculty whenever she’s on campus. Her immediate answers and feedback make it easier for me to get my work done. Her actions also show that she supports and respects her faculty. 
  2.  Opportunities for professional development beyond where I work.  I’ve been able to take time off from school to attend and make presentations at conferences sponsored by professional organizations. Learning more about education outside of my school and my district provides me with new ideas to apply in my classroom and also, through sharing, validates my own practice. My principal (see #1) appreciates the new knowledge that I share with our faculty when I return from conferences. 
  3. Two….actually three different classrooms. I teach a class called Future City in addition to teaching US History. Part of the Future City class involves building scale models of cities the students have “created.” I am lucky to have the key to a classroom that’s dedicated to Future City activities –my other inquisitive students can’t touch the models. We also get free rein to use the computers in our school’s learning lab when the Future City class needs to complete their Sim City activities. On a lighter side, since I have three classrooms, people never really know where to find me.  
  4. Colleagues who work harder than I do. Each of my colleagues possesses unique skills and interests, yet all of them are focused on student learning. The school district gets quite a bang for their salary bucks when it comes to this faculty. We share what we know and learn a great deal from each other. Now that I think about it, their doors are always open too, just like the principal’s door! 
  5. Sucess with Technology. I’ve had my share of disasters, but with SmartBoards and cell phones as tools in the classroom, most technology-based activities have worked out well. I should mention that our faculty (see #4) includes a dedicated Educational Computing Specialist who responds to our calls for assistance within minutes. She’s prevented many a technological nightmare as I’ve learned how to use computers, laser projectors, and iPod Touches! 

I’ve reserved mentioning the best gift for last. Why are we in the classroom every day? Teachers dedicate their careers to help their students learn. We have high hopes at the start of every year, but it’s not easy to maintain those high hopes when we’re challenged by the daily behaviors of students who might not want to be learning every minute of every day. The best gift that I’ve received this year? That would be…

Students who want to learn and feel free to respectfully question decisions and lesson content. There are some years when teachers fear the future of the planet due to the general behavior of their students. There are also years when our faith in the future is restored because the students are so upbeat and positive. Most years are good years, but this year, the students are exceptional – it’s a joy to work with them. I’m sending my wish out to every educator that 2012 brings you gifts that make your job meaningful and rewarding. Happy New Year!

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