Making the Desert Bloom

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Nov 22 2012


Like most teachers, I wanted to impart many (but not all) of the values of Thanksgiving onto my students. As a result, this past week’s writing prompt (to help them prepare for the 5th grade writing exam) focused on what they are thankful for. I wanted to share both my model essay that I shared with my students and a few more things that I am thankful for on this Thanksgiving. First, here is my five-paragraph essay for my students:

As the cold air from the north finally starts to blow in, I know that we are reaching Thanksgiving. Like many of you, I am getting ready to eat a delicious meal with turkey, stuffing, and all sorts of other dishes with friends and family and watch some football. At this great time of the year, I would like to pause and give thanks for being healthy, new opportunities, and for you, my students.

I am incredibly fortunate to have stayed healthy for the past year. Even though I often have a cough or other minor issues, I have mostly stayed healthy over the past year. Without this good health, there is no way that I could have lived a successful life. Unfortunately, I see sick people all around me, and I hope they can have their health improved so that they can live a good life as well. Without being healthy, nothing else in my life would be possible.

This year has been filled with new opportunities for me. This summer, I decided to move to Las Vegas to become your teacher. Moving here has given me great new opportunities from working at this excellent school to hiking all around Southern Nevada to eating delicious food. Each day I discover something new whether it is a new trail to hike or a new place to eat. There is so much to discover here in Las Vegas that I am never bored.

Finally and most importantly, I am thankful for you. Each and every one of you has brought something new into my life. Through teaching you, I have learned more about your lives, my life, and the future of our country. You are the future of our country! While I may not be pleased with every one of your actions, I have faith that our future will be better than our past, because of your commitment to your education. If you stay committed to learning, then you will have boundless opportunities ahead of you along with one very proud teacher.

I know that I going to spend the next week being quite thankful and content with my good health, my opportunities, and you. Whenever I am feeling down, I look back on what I have, and I realize just how blessed I actually am. Even when life is tough, I always remember to appreciate what I have, and I hope that you do the same this Thanksgiving.

Moving away from this note/model for my students, I feel like I need to add a few more thanks in here. First, I must thank my school administration for not giving up on me already. Honestly, my performance as a teacher has been pretty awful for my first three months. While my students are growing academically, this behavior has not been acceptable, and I haven’t done enough to change that. I would like to thank them for giving me the opportunity to teach (along with Teach for America, of course) and not firing me on the spot. Hopefully, I continue to improve enough that I will be able to return to 100 Academy next year.

Next, I want to thank anyone who has listened to me vent at any point since I started teaching. From readers of this blog to various calls to friends both around the corner and around the world, I have released more stress, tension, and anxiety than I have ever had before in my life. Thanks for reminding me of the context that I am a 22-year old first-year teacher working in a difficult environment. Often, I get so caught up in the details of the job (mostly my failings) that I lose sight of the big picture. While I am still nowhere near as good of a teacher as I need to be, I would like to thank anyone who has given me real encouragement to keep moving forward in this process. Even though it may be difficult, I can’t quit on my kids, and your words help remind me of that.

Overall, I have much to be thankful for today. I writing to you from my parents’ house in Ohio where I am incredibly fortunate to go home to for the first-time after five very difficult months. It’s amazing to have a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal with my immediate family. However, this reunion is only temporary. On Saturday afternoon, I will be flying back out to the desert ready to tackle the next challenge. While I will still make plenty of mistakes, I am thankful that I have a learned so much this year so that I will be a better teacher in the days, weeks, months, and years moving forward.

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