Obligatory Thanksgiving Post

Devo - "Beautiful World"

“Do you see anything positive in life?”

I was taken aback at the very question, posited in response to a Facebook post I made recently which – all things considered – I didn’t even find to be among my most cynical or worried. Go figure. 

I responded with a few specific things I found very positive in life – any number of amazing individuals, hockey, great literature, well-written history, They Might Be Giants, and Hideaway Pizza among them. The question did nudge me, though, to do this specific post – one I’ve considered and abandoned a few dozen times, and one perhaps a bit cheesy given the looming onset of that one holiday.

But I am thankful, and genuinely so, for a number of things related to public education, blogging, and such. So that the Universe might let me get back to frothily protesting systemic inanity, I’ll confess a few:

I’m thankful for an online community – particularly on edu-Twitter – which leans towards encouraging, funny, insightful, and bold. Social media can be a chaotic, twisted, foreboding domain. The silence and apathy greeting your best efforts can be crippling. 

I am thankful, then, for those who ‘favorite’, and ‘reply’, and re-tweet, and quote. I’m thankful for those who challenge me, those who feed my ego, those who argue with me, and those who simply let me vent. I’m particularly grateful for those who comment on the blog with something other than infected links, ads for sexual services, or home repair contractors in Australia. 

Listing individuals is a doomed course – inevitably I’ll leave out someone very dear to me – but it would be irresponsible not to acknowledge Rob Miller, Rick Cobb, and Claudia Swisher – the Big Legit Three of Oklahoma edu-blogging – who treated me like someone valuable with something useful to say, even when I kinda sucked most weeks and was still working out my ‘voice.’

Well-timed warm-fuzzies from national edu-entities like Starr Sackstein and Peter Greene of Curmudgucation provided ridiculous amounts of joy, and when Diana Ravitch tweeted out the original version of Ms. Bullen’s Data Rich Year to her eleventeen zillion followers, I nearly had to change pants. 

They were just tweets, but seeing my links going out from those accounts – both in-state and out – was crazy validating. At the same time, it pushed me towards considerations of agency and responsibility – like I should try to not veer too far from reality or suck too badly, because people might actually be reading from time to time. 

So I’m thankful for people who treated me like a legit voice at the table even when I was faking it and mostly just needed to work through some anger issues. I’ve since expanded to include obscure historical figures and more potty humor – so… growth. 

Devo - "Through Being Cool"

 

I’m insanely thankful for the #11FF – a semi-contrived community of ‘followers’ who tacitly agree to feign extreme excitement over my approval. A shared inside joke quickly became a real circle of those loved and adored, and whatever good mojo they’ve sent my way, they deserve back a dozen-fold. I have the BEST followers on Twitter – no joke. 

The fact that many of them are smarter, kinder, funnier, and much better looking than I am we have collectively agreed to ignore. 

Tyler Bridges and Lindsey Lipsky were the first two people to win Blue Serial #11FF shirts, and both posed in them, took appropriate pics, and posted them with the sort of enthusiasm I was hoping the concept would garner. They both also happened to look damn good in them, which didn’t hurt. 

Because they set the precedent, the whole thing worked. Later, there were even mugs. See what a little cooperation and ego-tickling can do for the rest of the world?

If we’ve ‘spoken’ regularly on Twitter, I adore you. If I didn’t, we wouldn’t be having ‘those’ conversations. The #11FF thing is fun, but I’m actually a bit of an elitist #@%& in real life. If I bestow valuable minutes upon you, you’re genuinely rare and amazing. Thank you for being such. 

I’m thankful for many of my admins in my ‘real’ job. I have that principal you can go sit with in the morning and confess shortcomings or celebrate triumphs, and who won’t respond in platitudes or policies. I walk away with actual ideas or better challenges, inspired not by a poster on his wall or some Chex Mix and a notepad every May, but by genuine interaction with a brilliant professional.

I’m thankful for those assistant principals who want to know what I think should happen and discuss what’s best for students before blindly submitting to bureaucracy. 

I’m thankful for building secretaries who are fine with that title even though they’re often the most essential elements of the equation. I’m particularly thankful for one who doesn’t like me some days, but who holds the entire system together so that the rest of us can teach and such. 

I’ll take ‘that damn good’ over ‘thinks I’m adorable’ any day. 

I’m thankful for a handful of people up the chain of command who hear me out from time to time when something sets me off. I’m thankful for how often their solutions are better than mine, and because even when I don’t buy into their plans or their approach, they’re clearly founded on the same values and convictions as mine.

Devo - Worried Man

 

I’m crazy thankful for students who come back or email or Tweet to tell me when something we did in class was helpful for them down the road. My freshmen hate this, because they know every time a former student thanks me for all that document analysis or writing, their lives become more difficult. 

I take sick pleasure in this. Pleasure for which I’m truly thankful.

I’m thankful for how many of my students are genuinely likeable, funny, thoughtful, insightful, challenging, interesting, honest, and wildly gifted – even when so many aren’t that enamored with school or the current system. 

Urging them on towards ownership of their learning and academic excellence is much like trying to drive a nail into concrete using only fresh croissants – they crumble far too easily and the nail doesn’t always move very much, but the buttery fresh goodness and entertaining flakiness keep me from being overly distraught. 

I’m thankful I teach a non-tested subject. I could list that one another dozen times and still not say it enough. 

I’m really, really thankful I teach a non-tested subject.

This last part is particularly cheesy. But if you’re reading this right now – in an email or on the blog – all the way to the end coming up right here, then I am thankful for you. More than all that other stuff I said, actually. 

I mean, don’t tell those other people I’ve been talking about, but I’ve always kinda liked YOU best. We have a… special thing, don’t you think?

Thank you so much for recognizing pathos, pith, and powerful pedagogy when you find it. Your love for me proves your enduring wisdom and insight – qualities far too rare in this broken world. Keep doing what you’re doing, as well as you’re doing it. And thank you for doing it – seriously. 

We’d be lost without you.

Happy Thanksgiving. 

Devo - Whip It (1980)

 

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