I’ve been listening to A. J. Jacob’s book, Thanks a Thousand, and he inspired me to engage in a gratitude exercise: from A to Z, this is what I am grateful for as a teacher.
Assessment: Obviously, as a researcher, assessment is a source of fascination for me. Through my research, and my teaching, I’ve come to really appreciate the value of assessment as an essential aspect of learning.
Becoming: The notion that we are always becoming, as opposed to being, teachers, is profoundly important to me. Yes, I am a teacher, but I am not exactly the teacher I was last year, or last decade, nor the teacher I will be next year, or next decade. There is always room, and need, for growth – and for forgiveness, for what we weren’t yet, before.
Cegep: I am very grateful for the Cegep system, both as a teacher and as a student (and even as a parent). No system is flawless, and not all colleges, programs, or teachers are perfect, but the Cegep system is an excellent transition from secondary to university, for some, and – perhaps more importantly – a training ground for those for whom university just isn’t the way.
Development: I am grateful that in my new job, I have a chance to develop an already-good program into what I hope will be a great program.
The English Exit Exam: First, I am grateful that the exam introduced me to so many wonderful people from other colleges and other walks of life. I have always loved the slightly crazed but delightfully intimate atmosphere of the marking sessions. I am also grateful for the leadership skills I’ve had to hone to coordinate the exam and marking sessions, and for the opportunity to better my written French with countless emails to and from the Ministry team.
Friends: Most of my close friends are also teachers, and we are, I believe, a valuable resource for each other. We vent to each other, we bounce ideas off of each other, and we share tools, tips, and material with each other.
General Education: One of the things that the Cegep system gets right is its insistence that regardless of program, regardless of university or career track, all students must take courses in literature, humanities, a second language, and physical education. The General Education program prepares our students as citizens, and I am grateful that our system values that aspect of our students’ lives.
Hand sanitizer: In-class essays + cold season = appreciation for easy access to clean hands 🙂
Income: Let’s face it, it’s pretty great to get paid to do something you love. Girl’s gotta eat!
Journaling: I am not an avid journal-writer, but I have found interactive journals to be an excellent tool in the classroom. Unlike high-stakes writing, journals give students a place to write freely, and because I write back to them, we get to know each other a little better, in a different way. Yes, they write to me about what we’re doing in class, but they also write to me about their families and their fears and their cats. Through their journals, I learn to love my students.
Knitting: Not only am I grateful for the meditative nature of knitting (and the accessories and sweaters themselves), but I am thankful for the way knitting occasionally reminds me that I’m not instantly good at everything, that sometimes I need to be more patient about my own learning, and that sometimes, the best thing to do is rip out those rows and start again.
Lifelong learning: Here I am at fifty, still engaged in learning. I am close the end of my doctoral journey, but I am invested (literally as well as figuratively) in learning as a yoga teacher, a fitness instructor, and a university teacher and mentor.
Montreal: This amazing city I call home is also home to four world-class universities and some pretty awesome colleges. That means that the city also features tons of museums, galleries, and libraries; artwork and a performing arts scene to support all our budding artists, actors, musicians, and storytellers; and teaching hospitals that bring excellent healthcare and medical innovation to us locals.
Networks: Sometimes it can feel a little isolated, being the only teacher in a room full of students. I am grateful for all the contacts, near and far, who keep me feeling connected.
Organization: Sometimes it’s hard to stay on top of things, especially when there are JUST. SO. MANY. THINGS. I am grateful that somewhere along the line, I managed to get kind of organized, and for the many tools at hand to keep me that way.
The program approach: I appreciate that even in the post-secondary world (perhaps, arguably, even more), we value coherence and cohesion in our programs. It’s easy, especially in areas like English Composition and Literature, to see and think about our courses as discrete units. It’s better, for all concerned, if we can see how our courses fit into a bigger picture, and we have an idea of who our students will be and what they will be able to do at the end of the whole, rather than our little part.
Quebec: As riled up as I sometimes get about provincial politics, I am still grateful to live in a place that values education, supports unions, and lives in two (actually, many) languages.
Research: Not just for the opportunity to do research, but for the invaluable research being done, that not only brings new ideas and tools to my classroom, but also supports education initiatives around the world. More education means more peace and better leadership.
Students: Of course! Aside from being the raison d’etre of my actual job, my students are a source of inspiration and pride. Most students seem to enter the classroom so willing to trust that we know what we’re doing, and that we’re there to help them, and I am very grateful for that sentiment. I like to think that many (if not all) of my students leave my classroom with at least some new learning, and, above all, some confidence in their own skill and trust in their own voice.
Technology: I know that some of my colleagues are much happier with pen and paper, and believe that books are sacred objects. I respect that, but I am definitely grateful for technology as a teacher. I use my computer in many ways, all the time, and I am learning more and more about how to use technological tools in the classroom, and for collaboration with students and other academics. I know I’m sometimes too connected, but at the same time, I value being accessible to my students and colleagues.
Unions: As I said about Quebec, my encounters with unions have sometimes been frustrating and infuriating. I am, however, very grateful for the work of our unions, and above all, for the philosophy of collective power.
Vanier: Vanier is a group of people without whom I would certainly not be the person, and teacher, that I am now, and continue to become. Vanier was where I was happiest as a student, and has always felt like home (even if, like most homes, there are moments of conflict!).
Whiteboards! Honestly, I cannot stand blackboards. Ugh, the dust everywhere! In my hair, in the tiny lines of my hand, on my books… The fact that they’re never clean for long. The fact that students at the back of the room can’t read what’s on the board… So I am grateful for whiteboards for all the ways they’re not like blackboards, and because I can use colours to illustrate a point, and because they show up much better in photos when I need to remember what we put on the board.
Naturally, this is the tough one… Xmas? Xylophones? Xerox machines? I suppose as someone with chronic gut issues, I am grateful for xanthan gum…
The YMCA! Really! I have been a member for over a decade now. After my kids were born, I found myself in pretty terrible shape. Back-to-back-to-back pregnancies took their toll on my body, and I was slow and heavy. The local Y was so welcoming and supportive, and not only helped me get back in shape, but also gave me the bug… now I’m a certified yoga (another Y to be grateful for) and spin instructor, and I’ve used my fitness teaching to inform my academic work, and vice versa.
Sleep! Yes, despite all the insinuations to the contrary, I do in fact sleep, and love it. ZZZZzzzzzz