Hitting the Pause Button
'Tis the season for the social media firestorm of thankful messages, and, as cliché as it is, I think there is something to be said for pausing and being grateful. Yet it can get overwhelming. A few years ago, I did a new "thanks" message on my Facebook page for the 10 days leading up to Thanksgiving. I was scraping the bottom of the barrel by the end, mostly because I felt the need to be entertaining while not bragging, which is a fine line to walk. Like many of you, I have so much to be thankful for, and I find it's easy to take it all for granted. And if you're like me, you save certain things to remember the good times. Maybe it's a wedding program, a special note from a student, the ticket stub from your first concert, or any other tangible item that you can post on a bulletin board or pull from a drawer when you need a pick-me-up and take a moment of pause.
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, and I know I share that with many friends and family members. It's the only "big" holiday that's not filled with candy or gifts. It's largely considered a U.S. holiday, although I like the Canadian's timing (the second Monday in October) much better. Thanksgiving certainly has an identity issue because it's sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas and suffers "scope-creep" more than any other holiday. Yes, it has its myths, but I’m sticking by Thanksgiving.
I'm thankful I chose the world of education to spend my waking moments, for a variety of reasons. My parents and my only sibling are all teachers. My parents were both teachers for their entire career, and they demonstrated how to work hard on a daily basis. Unless it was summer, there was never a night where one of them was without papers to grade or report cards to complete. Our kitchen table had dual roles as a place to eat meals as well as a desk to spread out the work of hundreds (thousands) of students over the years. My sister continues to teach, and works harder now as a veteran teacher as she ever has because she loves her students. I often say, "Education is my family business." I cannot imagine another profession to be a part of, and I'm appreciative of how my career has evolved.
I'm thankful for friends and family who look out for us in tough times. Sometimes we aren't even aware when those things are happening and yet there's a support team ready to pounce. When I was in the classroom teaching, I vividly remember colleagues joking and making me laugh at critical times when I really needed it. In high school, I recall the friends and teachers who helped me get through whatever the crisis of the moment was, and how I thought the world would end if I didn't do well on a test. We never really know who all of the people are who are going to rise up and help, and for that I'm indebted. A video produced by Rainn Wilson (Dwight from "The Office") and his organization, Soul Pancake, demonstrated an interesting idea that I wish I had the guts to do. It's a great example of how gratitude spreads and what happens when you share that gratitude with those who mean the most to you. Take seven minutes to see what happens.
Finally, I realize I've been very fortunate, and I appreciate what my life has become. It hasn't been without hardship, and I empathize with so many people around me who struggle. Every family has challenges, and we are not immune from tough times, yet raising two boys around a caring family is likely the best gift I can ever give to them. I'm thankful I had so many strong influences in my life that lead by example and helped me follow that path. I hope I can continue what they started.
"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them."
—John F. Kennedy, Thanksgiving Proclamation, November 5, 1963
Thanks to ASCD Emerging Leader Brianna Crowley for sharing the video.
Kevin Scott is a strategic advisor for Constituent Programs at ASCD, facilitating its programs and initiatives created for younger educators, such as the Emerging Leaders and ASCD Student Chapter programs. He also provides services and consultation to ASCD affiliates. Before coming to ASCD, Scott served as member services manager for the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) at the National School Board Association (NSBA), where he facilitated meetings with members, wrote CUBE's Urban Edge newsletter, provided content for NSBA's BoardBuzz blog, and maintained CUBE's presence on Twitter. Scott spent seven years teaching 7th grade history in Fairfax County Public Schools and has worked for other associations as the education director.