It's never easy showing gratitude. I asked my students how they can show gratitude at our Thanksgiving Potluck right before the holiday break and it took a lot of thinking before the first person put their answer on the board. It's one thing to say that I'm grateful for my family, but how do I show that gratitude? We live in a fast-paced world where showing emotion isn't necessarily accepted; do I buy them a card that says “thanks for putting up with my crazy days and late night calls”? Most people would probably state that their parents, significant other, siblings, etc. already know they are loved and they don't need to be told; but I push back on that too. You can never be told too many times that you are loved. Never.
So if you can't tell, I am grateful for my students in this holiday season of thanksgiving. Not just the students that I have now, but all students that I have worked with since I started down this road: my kindergarten choir students at church, my students from my student teaching semester, even the adults who I taught at Highland Presbyterian Church during my Issues Class. All of my students have helped me grow and develop into the teacher I am and will continue to be and for that I am grateful. But how do I show that gratitude? Well, for one I am posting it in a blog. But I also tried to show it in different ways throughout my teaching. For example, one of my eighth grade students while I was student teaching had a very hard semester while I was with her. She went from being the popular girl dating a football player to being the most hated girl in school; because of that she tried to commit suicide and was pulled out of school for a month. When she came back, she was ignored and hated even more. I was extremely close to leaving the school by the time she came back but I made a point to help her out with her extra work and her confusion over a few weeks. By the time my last few days came about she was extremely upset because she didn't want to go back to the way things were without the cushion of a teacher between her and school society. So I showed her the gratitude I felt towards her honesty with me and her growth by talking with some teachers so that she would have a similar support system when I was gone. The teachers did not even know about her personal issues because the family was refusing information but they were more than willing to give her support.
I am also grateful for community, through my family and through the new family that has been sewn together in New Orleans for me. My family has heavily supported my success in New Orleans by sending me packages, talking me through all of my struggles and successes, and emailing me about adult things when I don't know how to fix my car. My church family is the only reason I am here; they financially supported my YAV year, they showed me enthusiasm for my future, and they continue to talk to me even though I am not physically present in the congregation. My work family in New Orleans and my students really create a home away from home by showing me support, smiles, and laughter. So how do I show them gratitude? I try to be vocal with my admiration; I tell my parents how much I appreciate their phone calls and work to respond quickly to emails from family members and community members. I work to stay active in my church community in Kentucky. Even though I am multiple states away, that church helped form me into the person I am now and I want them to know how much I am growing. Sometimes, just saying “thank you” isn't what is best; sometimes demonstrating how these people have helped you for the better is necessary instead.
So even though our waists grew and our clothes shrunk over the past week, gratitude was hopefully on our minds as we sat around a table of friends and family. It's impossible to go this road alone, but it's hard to walk it with others if you don't share your gratitude with them. That's why I dipped into my random musical collection for this song “Hold My Hand” by Hootie and the Blowfish; we need to talk about gratitude in a world decimated by regret, subjectivity, and Black Friday shopping. So let's hold hands and welcome in the holiday season of getting and giving.