91: Attitude of Gratitude

91: Attitude of Gratitude

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teacher Tales

Attitude of Gratitude

If you want to turn your life around,
try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily.

~Gerald Good

“Dreading going back to school?” my husband inquired as he tossed some junk mail into the recycle bin.

“Why do you ask?” I replied. “Because I see a heap of loser scratch tickets in the bin. The number of lottery tickets you purchase has a direct correlation to your feelings of desperation about your job.”

It’s true. After twenty-nine years in the classroom, I seem to have lost that giddy first-day-of-school feeling and it saddens me. I want to be excited about another year of possibility. Yet lately it seems I’ve been feeling like all another school year holds for me are more problem students and a principal concentrating too much on standardized test results. In my first years of teaching there was time for creativity and for getting to know the students. Now it’s just coach, coach, and coach for the state exams. It’s not much fun for any of us, student and teacher alike.

Good educators know that our attitudes are as important as the information we impart. Classroom climate can make or break a situation, and my goal has always been to treat my students with the respect and compassion that they deserve as human beings. So what can I do to adjust my attitude?

My sister gave me a wonderful idea. She said that I should strive to develop an attitude of gratitude towards my job and my difficult students. It works! I try to feel grateful that my principal put his faith in me to guide and help these students. I am grateful that some of my colleagues didn’t get a particular pupil because their personalities would have clashed and it could have been a yearlong disaster for both. I am sincerely grateful for my own children, and profoundly thankful that they don’t have to cope with the situations in which many of my students find themselves. And finally, I feel gratitude because next year some other teacher will have the pleasure of that difficult student’s company.

I also decided to keep a journal of funny things that have happened during the school years. For example, one day while the students were supposed to be working on their science lab I observed two of my third graders arguing furiously. I stepped in demanding to know what was going on. The first girl said, “Carmen says that her ears are so good she can hear a dog whistle, and that isn’t true, is it?” I replied that even if Carmen had really keen hearing, most likely she couldn’t hear a dog’s whistle. “Yeah, I knew that,” the girl said. “Cause dogs can’t whistle.”

Another time the students had been given a spelling list and asked to write a sentence using each word. Mercury was on the list. One of the students wrote, “Lord have mercury on my soul.” Many a time since then I have repeated those words,” Lord, have mercury on my soul too!”

My assistant commented on a student’s name. “Sturgis, that’s a cool name. Did you know there’s a town in South Dakota named that?” she inquired.

“Yep, I’m named after that town. My mama rode her motorcycle there for a rally and she went into heat and I was born.”

Now folks, you just can’t make up stuff like that. I only wish I had started keeping track of these stories earlier. I could have retired on the book deal. When I have just about reached the end of my rope, these stories reel me back in.

Teaching is a hard job. What a huge understatement! We all strive to do the very best for our students, trying to remember that as precious as our own children are to us, so they are to their parents. We may not agree with how they are being raised and we often feel distressed at the lack of guidance they seem to be given, but for this one school year they are ours.

What do you remember about your own school days? Chances are you have two vivid memories: the teachers that made you feel like you mattered and the teachers that in some way left you feeling humiliated or traumatized. We hold the power to create memories for students that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. We do make a difference in the lives of children, and I am grateful for that opportunity.

~Tommie Ann Grinnell

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