Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for many reasons, but mostly because it disciplines me to pause and reflect on the incredible number of reasons I have to be grateful. We live in a culture that seems to be focused on magnifying all that is wrong in the world – after all, a good dramatic “oh no” sells newspapers a whole lot better than a flowery story about a church serving meals. This holiday on the other hand, is an annual opportunity to accept that we decide how to approach each day, and it challenges us as a nation to choose to be grateful. Indeed the holiday season can be a time of raw emotions for those grieving a loss in their family or for those who have family members missing from the dinner table. This day however, is about disciplining ourselves to focus on all that we should say thank you for. While we honor our individual and collective struggles, we pause on this holiday to make ourselves see the brighter side of life, to choose to be grateful, and to celebrate the simplest of treasures. It is in the disciplined process of making ourselves see what we have to be grateful for that we develop a healthy heart of gratitude, and like most people, I need the reminder of this holiday to improve my own “gratitude health.”
A presentation I listened to last week by Kim Gibbons, Executive Director of the St. Croix River Education District, brought me back to a great synthesis of education research that I wrote about in a 2011 post. Her main argument was that the best thing we can do to better serve our students with special needs is to improve core instruction – what happens in our classrooms to meet the needs of all students. She presented John Hattie’s research with polish and focused on a simple question and my ongoing soapbox – how do we better align our practices with what research says is best practice?
How are we doing in our district? Do our students love to come to school? Do they love to learn? What happens between age 5 when they walk in our doors as sponges soaking up every opportunity to learn and age 15 when they might dread being asked to engage in school? How might we tackle being relevant to adolescent learners?