We often think of gratitude as a way of giving thanks, but it is so much more than this…
I started my educational career at a small school in northern Ohio, and I had no idea what I was doing. My diploma hung on the wall of my classroom but as to how to relate to teenagers…I had a long way to go. I used to yell…A LOT! In fact, I didn’t realize what teaching really was until my third year at Norwayne High School. At the time I taught a freshmen English course and was the newspaper advisor. My freshmen classes that year were patient and trusting. They saw that I wanted to be a great teacher; I just didn’t know how to do it. So, they took me under their wing and they taught me how to teach them. They showed their gratitude for my investment in their lives by giving me their trust.
For the next four years, they showed me what they were capable of: great feats of heroism in the midst of loss, selfless giving, unwavering perseverance, and joyful hearts. It would have been easy to discount these years as simply a great group of kids or great parents, but it was so much more than that. These were teenagers who were wise beyond their years and were willing to share their wisdom and insight with me…their teacher. I am convinced that I learned far more from these kids than they ever learned from me. The kids taught me how to teach.
I eventually left Norwayne High School to pursue a teaching position at my alma mater and a high school much closer to home, Ashland High School. The move was hard because I had invested my heart and soul in those Bobcats. I cared about those kids and their success in school and, more importantly, life. I still stay in contact with a few of those students. In fact, every Thanksgiving I get a phone call from a former Norwayne student that plays in a successful rock band, no matter where in the country he may be. These students were gracious towards me, and I am grateful for what they saw in me.
Today, I teach at Ashland High School and I truly love it. I am invested; heart and soul, in Arrow country and the students show their gratitude for my investment by continuing to teach me how to teach them. So many of them rise above the problems of broken homes and socioeconomic status to pursue an education. This is not an easy task and they often need to be told how much it means that they “show up.”
Sometimes we need to thank people for doing “what they should” because when we do, they will do so much more. We are not alone in this life and gratitude is a reminder that things could be worse but more importantly; it reminds us that we may be capable of more. I tell my students that I appreciate them on a regular basis. Why? Well, because I truly do appreciate the fact that I get to see them and influence them daily. I care about them as people and I want them to know that there is someone fighting for them to succeed. In turn, they do the same for me.
This is the crux of Lunch Bunch…showing people that their existence is important and that they influence people. So, we celebrate birthdays…because a birthday is a celebration of existence, of life. Birthday celebrations are one way we show gratitude to our students…just for showing up. For our staff, Chuck invented Thankful Thursdays. It is a public way for the Ashland High School staff to show their gratitude for each other. Staff members email Chuck with their shout outs and every Thursday, Chuck sends out an email to the entire staff filled with expressions of gratitude both large and small. You may have heard of #tbt or #selfieSaturday, we have #thankfulThursday.
This Thursday is Thanksgiving, a time of gratitude. As you spend time with family and friends, remember that gratitude is about more than being thankful. It is about showing thanks by giving your time, talents & treasure. Show gratitude by telling those around you how much they mean to you and by giving your time to listen and share in their lives. My students continue to show me gratitude by having a sense of humor in the midst of standardized testing, by seeking out my advice, and by being open and honest with me in every aspect of the classroom.
How do you show gratitude? How do others show gratitude toward you? Use social media, email, letters, a phone call…tell those around you how grateful you are for them this Thanksgiving by using #thankfulThursday.
-Ben Spieldenner, Lunch Bunch co-creator