Pausing to Be Thankful by Cindy Minnich
I often spend some quiet time on Thanksgiving reflecting on the many blessings I have had in my life – a practice not confined to our American holiday, but enjoyed as frequently as daily some months and weekly or monthly at other times. Some days my list includes coffee and quiet – particularly after the noise and extroverting of NCTE and ALAN. Some days it is spent scribbling about specific moments of blessing I have had as a wife, mother, daughter, friend, or teacher.
This morning is no different, but I am realizing that my list has so many things I hadn’t thought to have on the list before because I had simply taken them for granted.
I am thankful for being a product of a free and public education. My parents’ modest income would have made it difficult for them to send me to a private school, but my parents felt that the public schools were able to offer me the opportunities I needed to learn to read and write and learn and think critically from a wide variety of authorities in teaching their subjects. They weren’t wrong. I had teachers who valued the voices of me and my classmates, who allowed us to share our opinions, to solve problems beyond the ones in the book, to ask questions and lead discussion about what we wanted to know, to choose what to read, to never limit my enthusiasm and curiosity. I felt challenged and prepared for my life of learning – both formal and everyday.
I am thankful for libraries and librarians. In every grade of school, I was blessed with books and research resources beyond anything I could ever possibly have owned. The experts who worked there were patient kind-hearted magicians who knew how to find everything by flipping through cards or tapping on keys. These are spaces for all, with resources for all, with no price tags attached to limit who can benefit from the wisdom contained there.
I am thankful and forever indebted to those writers who have stamped my heart with their words as well as the kind souls who crossed my path who seemed to know exactly what words I needed at the right time. Those novels and plays and essays and posts and articles have shaped me and my thinking. This was true when my elementary teacher first put Bridge to Terabithia in my hands. It was true when my friend first grabbed The Stinky Cheese Man off the library shelf to share with me as a senior in high school. It’s still true with friends and colleagues and strangers in bookstores who share the words they love with me in passionate messages, links, and finished pages.
I am thankful for the opportunity to pay all this forward to my students every day. It’s an honor and privilege to be part of their lives, to learn with and from them, to grant them opportunities, to encourage them to find their voices, to listen to them, to put books in their hands, and to see them grow into readers and critical thinkers and writers. It’s not easy work, but I can’t imagine another place I’d rather be or anything I’d rather do than this work with students. I am equally thankful for the teachers that have been a part of my son’s life who give him what he needs to learn and grow.
I am thankful for those visionaries who saw that making education available to all without exception would be a benefit to everyone. I revisit the importance of this investment every year when I watch this John Green video with students.
I am thankful that I live in a world where I have the freedom to raise my voice and speak and question on behalf of my students and all students to make our public schools better spaces. I’m grateful our world has gotten smaller with technology so that I can learn from colleagues across the country and the world to become a better teacher myself.
As you take some time to reflect today, think of how you and your students have been blessed. If you can, say thank you. If you can’t, figure how you can make your actions reflect your gratitude.
Cindy Minnich is a high school teacher who is a hardened optimist who has spent the last week or so being bolstered by the stories and hugs of her colleagues at NCTE and ALAN. She lives with her husband, son, and menagerie of pets among her TBR stacks that double as her favorite form of interior decorating in Central PA. She does her part to make sure that Nerdy Book Club continues to have material posted each and every day. You can find her on Twitter as @cbethm.