What is the makeup of every teacher’s wish list?

There is no doubt that every teacher has a mental list of things they wish they had or did not have to make their work and life more efficient and effective. If we asked for the top 10 teacher desires, the response would be overwhelming with numerous replies and likely a few common thoughts.

Some might wish they had more time available for teaching and less time being responsible for managing behavior. Others might wish for greater freedom to pursue best practices instead of adhering to external influences on their classroom. Still, others might seek after greater respect and recognition for their work and their profession.

While it is valuable to grow and seek for better systems and structures in our professional work, it is far too easy to dwell on that which we wish for rather than embracing an attitude of thankfulness and appreciation for the many great gifts that we do have as educators. As many individuals take time this month to reflect on that which they are thankful for, we ought to take a healthy and refreshing consideration of all that we appreciate about our roles as teachers and supporters of education.

Many studies have shown that thankful people are in a better position regarding their stress, sleeping habits, overall health and ability to develop deep relationships with others. Furthermore, a consistent thankfulness in our attitudes can assist us in better serving in our work.

While dissatisfaction at times can stir up great changes and lead to positive action in education, it can also lead us down less productive paths. A routine sense of dissatisfaction in the midst of our work can lead us in succumbing to victimhood and relinquishing responsibility for our calling to work diligently and serve others faithfully. Thankfulness, however, leads us to recognize what we have and then act in a way that acknowledges our abilities rather than our inabilities. This is a positive message for everyone, but has a particular value and influence for us as educators.

As we face adversity, we naturally get an opportunity to grow and adapt. Adversity seems to be inherently contradictory to thankfulness, but with the proper framing, we are able to find reasons for gratitude in every situation that we encounter in education. As we continue teaching throughout this month, it might just be valuable to consider which subtle ways we can be thankful for the circumstances that lie before us.

While it may be difficult to consider giving thanks when there are so many things that have yet to be improved in education, it does not diminish the value of maintaining a thankful spirit in the midst of continual growth. While nothing is perfect, nor will it ever be, in education, it is still important that we approach our work with a gratitude of past achievements and thankfulness for present opportunities. This grateful attitude serves us in many positive ways as individuals and also as members of a community.

So, as we continue teaching throughout this month, what should be driving us toward thankfulness? Consider these:

  • No matter how large our classes may be, we can be thankful that we have students to care for and serve.
  • Challenging conversations may arise with coworkers or administrators, but we are nevertheless privileged to serve alongside gifted and passionate professionals.
  • We may be constantly faced by new challenges, but they reveal our opportunities to grow and develop as professionals and individuals.
  • We may have difficult and overwhelming days, but we have the honor of sharing students’ burdens and encouraging them to success.
  • We may not always see or hear about the fruits of our labor, but we are able to serve knowing that the reward is not for ourselves, but for our students.

This list continues as long as we take time to reflect. The challenges in education are great, but the reasons for thankfulness are greater.

As a final note, it is important to remember that thankfulness is not dependent upon the ease of life, but the attitude with which you approach it. We have the choice to give thanks for an opportunity to serve our students, colleagues and communities as educators. This is not only a great responsibility and privilege, but also a marvelous reason to give thanks.

Take the opportunity this month to identify that which you are thankful for and embrace a spirit of gratitude as you continue faithfully serving in education.