The Importance of Gratitude

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” – Epicurus 

Aiming for a short but concise post: it is the end of the year after all, but nevertheless the most difficult of my career to date, for countless reasons that again, would pad this out far more than I would prefer. However, what has been apparent on more than one occasion during that time, that when finding myself in situations that were so far from pleasant or comfortable, they made tea and scones with Theresa May look like a jovial day out, two nibbles of realisation reared their inconspicuous head: firstly, that I am more intelligent, more capable and far stronger emotionally than I think. In fact, to the extent that I have used my belief that I am less than, not as good as, and all the others excuses as a crutch for far too long. Time to pull the sleeves up. Second, and this ties intrinsically to the first, that gratitude to both yourself and others is a fundamental part of what drives me forward. In order to understand myself both personally and professionally, I need to be explicit in this genuine thankfulness to others much more often, which in turn will help me to be a little less hard on myself for not getting around to making a dent on that book plan from January. Why? Because I think:

I do not say thank you enough. Or quite to the contrary, people say it a thousand times a day for the things that don’t make an impact, but fail to say it with the raw meaning that it can impart when it needs to be said the most. Thank you for the big things is hard, because it is admitting vulnerability, admitting that you needed someone else, admitting that you cannot exist in solitary greatness and need other people to move forward, challenge you so that you can create an idea, concept, attitude that wasn’t achievable on your own. How many times do we say thank you for the pen, thank you for the change, thank you for holding the door- what about the thank you for what you showed me 9En3, thank you for opening my eyes to a poem in an entirely different way than I’ve ever seen it before Tom, thank you for making me laugh Simon, as we plough through evaluation skills just one more time on a Friday afternoon?

I need to embrace the difference of others. I spent a large part of my previous career managing people and growing increasingly frustrated that they weren’t doing things in ‘the right way.’ To take this to teaching, I know I have taken to the classroom, master plan of learning at the ready (they are going to LOVE this, it’s going to be a reconstruction of that Just teach classroom where everyone’s BUZZING with the learning), only to find that things just didn’t pan out that way. The ‘good’ kids looked at you like you’d pulled a lesson off the Martian version of TES, whilst the kids that were expecting to walk in and put a minimal four line paragraph together after a hard slog in PE are cashing in BIG. If teaching were linear and two dimensional, we would have all made a fortune by now, instead of chasing, as we do, the lights in the darkness to try and create the thing that works; that way into a text, that conjuring of magic for creative writing of an iceberg on the hottest day of the year, that anecdote about this programme in the nineties called One Foot in the Grave where Victor Meldrew becomes the somewhat hilarious and satirical representation of Ebeneezer Scrooge. Be grateful of the difference; it is what keeps you in teaching.

My pride should never be a factor in the decisions you make. This one is easier said than done. It is hard to decline, fall back, say no to opportunities that once used to challenge you and spur you on to restock, shift priorities, maintain your identity at the same time. Andy Cope’s Being Brilliant speaks of happiness being a magical unreachable destination, Sarah Knight’s The Magic of Not Giving a Fuck outlines that your cares, time, energy, money is best budgeted to managing true contentment- contentment with challenge is possible, but difficult.

People are the most important thing. This loses gravity on a day to day basis, but yesterday’s final day of school reminded me of the reason that I returned to a school close to my heart. Working in the ivory (scuffed white) tower of your classroom, exchanging conversation with young, lively but somewhat not quite matured brains all day, it is easy to forget the fantastic support network that teaching provides and I remember saying a similar thing last year at #Pedagoo, the year before at #LeicsTM, the year before at #ReadingTL15 but of all the things I am grateful for, it is to end the year with a group of people that are thought-provoking, challenge ideas, encourage my own and most importantly, understand my need to eat every two hours.

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