I spend a lot of time critiquing issues in my profession. The criticism is born out of love for my profession, passion for the work, and a deeply held belief that public education is the bedrock of a functional society. My confidence in these ideals makes it hard for me to accept conditions that don’t support them.
When I see chronic underfunding of our Arizona public schools, I know the long-term disadvantage that places students in. They will compete for jobs and college acceptance with young people who were provided the educational opportunities and experiences that more funding delivers.
When I see educators being relentlessly overworked and underpaid, I understand the impact it will have on staff retention in Arizona’s schools. I know it’s just a matter of time before they burn out and find a different career, leaving gaping, unfilled holes in our classrooms.
When I see our state’s elected leaders refuse to provide meaningful support and genuine commitment to our public education system, I know the things that are wrong are unlikely to be resolved in time to benefit our current students.
These are the reasons why I continue to critique. In my quest for an educational system that works for all students I will continue to criticize and evaluate its efficacy at every opportunity. To make our public school system the best it can possibly be for every child, it’s incumbent upon us to evaluate the systems and conditions under which our schools must operate.
With all of that said, it is November. The month of intentional focus on thankfulness. I try to live my life from a place of gratitude each and every day. But around Thanksgiving, I try to be even more mindful of the good around me. As I was reading through past blogs, I realized I have a pattern of writing about gratitude in November. I decided to continue the theme this year. It’s a good time to remind myself of all the great things that accompany the frustrating ones.
I’m mindful that even with all the discouraging aspects of Arizona’s education policy, I still have much for which to be thankful. As I take time to count my blessings, I am reminded of how lucky I am to have the profession I do.
My reasons to be thankful:
The opportunity to make a difference
There is no doubt public education has the potential to change children’s lives for the better. The best thing about public schools is their commitment to educate every child regardless of their financial or social circumstances.
As teachers, this means we get to spend every single day helping children reach their fullest potential. What other job gets to do that? It’s not hyperbole to say we have the future of the world in our classrooms. I’m grateful each and every day for the opportunity to serve students in this way.
The people I work with
I have met the absolute best people in my 2+ decades in education. The teachers, support staff, and administrators who fill a school building are some of the most dedicated and inspirational humans to walk this earth.
Further, since getting involved in public education advocacy in 2017, I have had the distinct privilege of working with the most incredible and selfless advocates. Their perseverance and grit leave me in awe.
I’m not sure what other profession would have led me to cross paths with the kind of people I get to work alongside. I’m forever grateful to have them in my life.
The community connection
One of the greatest values of public schools is the deep connection they have to the communities they serve. The neighborhood school functions as a place for common goals and aspirations. It connects parents, children, staff, and community members. Shared experiences occur within its walls. Lasting memories and relationships are formed inside its rooms. The connections I’ve made with the members of my school’s community are cherished relationships I’m not sure I would have experienced in a different job.
Being an action researcher
For those of us who love to be amateur researchers, being an educator allows us to utilize action research as part of our daily work. I’m able to test ideas in real time with real students in the hopes of improving student learning. I spend time reflecting on my own work, looking through data, and monitoring my own practices. This level of professional decision making makes my job extremely relevant and rewarding. I truly appreciate the ability to be innovative and reflective.
While I know I have every reason to be angry and frustrated as an Arizona teacher, I’m also keenly aware of the great joy this work brings me. It’s important for me to pause and reflect on it throughout the year.
I’ll soon return to loudly criticizing the damaging policies that hinder our schools. But for right now I’m remembering there is nothing else I’d rather do. For that, I’m thankful.
What are you thankful for?