Teach & Serve No. 17 – Giving Thanks for Our Own Gifts

Teach & Serve 

No. 17 * November 24, 2015


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GIVING THANKS FOR OUR OWN GIFTS

Turn away from false humility and embrace what makes you special

It’s Thanksgiving Week, a short week for our schools and a time to be with friends and family and step back to be grateful for all that we have – for all with which we are blessed.

Every Thanksgiving, I am reminded of the famous quote by Meister Eckhardt, the German theologian, philosopher and mystic: “If the only prayer you ever said was ‘thank you,’ it would be enough.” Powerful thought.

I could write paragraph after paragraph about all of the things in my life for which I am thankful. I will do that sometime this week leading up to Thanksgiving, because I am thankful for so very, very much. I have a wonderful wife, incredible children, a home over my head, a job I love, a family that cares about me. I have leisure time to do things like write this blog. I have all that I could ever need. More than I really need, truly.

quotes-prayer-thank-meister-eckhart-480x480I will write about those things, as I said.

But I’d like to challenge all of us who work in education to do something else this week. As we think about all those things for which we are thankful, let’s take a moment to give thanks for our own gifts.

I don’t mean the external gifts we’ve been given like health or those things I listed above. No, I mean those internal gifts we’ve been given. Those things in us that are good and powerful. Those things in us that help us to be excellent educators and administrators. Those things in us that other people point out about us.

Let’s take a few moments to give thanks for ourselves.

There’s nothing wrong with this. In fact, there is everything right with this. We can and should allow ourselves the space and time to be thankful for who we are and what we are. If you cannot identify those things about yourself for which we should be thankful, if you cannot readily list those things, I would suggest this: what would you say to build up a colleague, a student, a person in your charge? Say that to yourself. There is a difference between humbleness and false humility. Embrace being humble, for certainly that itself may be a quality for which you are thankful, but turn away from false humility and embrace, in equal measure, all that makes you special.

Because you are. You are an educator and a good one. Be thankful for you.

What better time to do so than this week?

Thank you for who I am. Thank you for what I can do. Thank you for the gifts I have to teach, to lead, to inspire.

Thank you for me.

That’s enough.

Teach & Serve No. 1 – “I Am A Teacher”

Teach & Serve 

No. 1 * August 4, 2015

I Am a Teacher

If we considered the many roles are called on to play, the many aspects of the work before us, the many groups we’re called to serve – if we considered all of this before we entered the profession, it’s possible we’d have chosen another path for our lives. But we didn’t. Be we counselors or coaches, teacher or administrators, staff members or librarians, we are all teachers and our lives are better for the pursuit.

I was born the first moment that a question leaped from the mouth of a child.  I have been many people in many places.  I am Socrates exciting the youth of Athens to discover new ideas through the use of questions.  I am Anne Sullivan tapping out the secrets of the universe into the outstretched hand of Helen Keller.  I am Aesop and Hans Christian Andersen revealing truth through countless stories.  I am Marva Collins fighting for every child’s right to an education.  I am Mary McCleod Bethune building a great college for my people.  And I am Bel Kaufman struggling to go Up the Down Staircase.

The names of those who have practiced my profession ring like a hall of fame for humanity – Booker T. Washington, Buddha, Confucius, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Moses and Jesus.  I am also those whose names and faces have long been forgotten but whose lessons and character will always be remembered in the accomplishments of their students.

Teach and Serve 2I have wept for joy at the weddings of former students, laughed with glee at the birth of their children and stood with head bowed in grief and confusion by graves dug too soon for bodies far too young.  Throughout the course of a day I have been called upon to be an actor, friend, nurse and doctor, coach, finder of lost articles, money-lender, taxi driver, psychologist, substitute parent, salesman, politician and a keeper of the faith.  Despite the maps, charts, formulas, verbs, stories and books, I have really had nothing to teach; for my students really only have to learn who they are, and I know it takes the whole world to tell you who you are.

I am a paradox.  I speak loudest when I listen most.  My greatest gifts are in what I am appreciatively willing to receive from my students.  Material wealth is not one of my goals, but I am a full-time-treasure-seeker in my quest for new opportunities for my students to use their talents and in my constant search for those talents that sometimes lie buried in self-defeat.

I am the most fortunate of all who labor.  A doctor is allowed to usher life into the world in one magical moment.  I am allowed to see that life is reborn each day with new questions, ideas and friendships.  An architect knows that if a structure is built with care, it may stand for centuries.  A teacher knows that if he or she builds with love and truth, what he or she builds will last forever.

I engage in daily battle against peer pressure, negativity, fear, conformity, prejudice, ignorance and apathy.  But I have the great allies of intelligence, curiosity, parental support, individuality, creativity, faith, love and laughter.  They all rush to my banner with indomitable support.

And whom do I have to thank?

I must thank the people who have made my labors possible: the parents of my students, for they have done me the great honor of entrusting to me their greatest contribution to eternity: their children.  And so I have a past that is rich in memory.  I have a present that is challenging, adventurous and fun because I am allowed to spend my days with the future.

I am a teacher … and I thank God for it every day.


By John Wayne Schallter, Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul, Chicken Soup for the Soul Publishing, 2012.