There was not enough counter space for all the food brought in for the staff Thanksgiving luncheon. So, the many delicacies were transported to the library and displayed atop the smaller bookcases and a few central tables.
Turkeys and hams covered one bookcase. On another, a fine display of casseroles and salads were arranged. A third bookcase was dedicated solely to a multitude of pies and cakes and cookies. The tables in the middle were stacked with breads and drinks.
The rectangular tables were lined up end to end to form a large banquet table. Thanksgiving decorations were placed in the center of each.
After dropping off their kids at the cafeteria, teachers from each grade level snuck off to the library. They took time filling their plates with the wondrous foods before them and then joined at the table to commune together.
Everything looked good to me – especially the items in the dessert spread! I placed upon my plate a little of everything including a giant slice of apple pie.
No chicken nuggets today.
I took a seat with my fellow seventh grade teachers. We were joined by the first-grade teachers and the special area teachers. The principal and assistant principal also came to the table.
Like any other day, we talked about our kids. We talked about our work. We talked about being tired. We talked about looking forward to the break from school.
Midway through our meal, I began thinking about how very fortunate I am to be a part of such a wonderful profession. Being a teacher is an extremely strenuous job – often a thankless one. But it is also one of a million rewards. Perhaps that is why I’ve remained a teacher for all my adult life.
Certainly, there have been some very difficult times. There have been angry moments, stressful moments, overbearing moments. There have been depressing times and heartbreaking times. There have been days when I wanted to hang it up and walk away.
But the good times have greatly outnumbered the bad. The horrible days have not lasted. Cheerful, bright days have always returned to reignite my passion for the classroom.
When you deal with a class of thirty, you have thirty different ways a day can turn out. All those personalities, all those collections of emotions, and all those individual stories are unpredictable. Every day is a surprise.
What keeps me coming back again and again is that very phenomenon. Every day is a surprise. The kids are my spirit’s coach. They make me laugh. They make me cry. They make me think. They make me better.
As I was throwing away my empty plate and preparing to leave this year’s Thanksgiving feast, I noticed two of my favorite kids sitting on the other side of the library. They were quietly eating their cafeteria lunches from their Styrofoam trays.
“Sal” and “Elise” were in my fifth-grade writing class a few years ago and again with me for seventh grade last year. They are two of my best writers and two of the nicest kids a teacher could ever wish for. They both make me laugh (definitely a bonus in junior high).
I walked to their table. They greeted me with beautiful smiles. Suddenly, I was hit with the realization that these two young adults would only be at my school for a few more months, and then they would be off to high school. I might never see either again.
“Hi, you two,” I said. “I just wanted to let you both know how much I appreciate you. I am really going to miss you next year.”
Both replied in unison, “We are going to miss you too, Mr. Ramsey.”
Sal asked, “Are you going to come to our promotion ceremony in May?”
I smiled. “Of course!” I exclaimed. “Your class was my first class at this school when I was the new guy! I love you guys! There is no way I would miss your promotion!”
Elise smiled and said, “You have to be there, Mr. Ramsey! We all love you!”
Her words were music to my ears. When I had first arrived at this school four years ago, I had worried that I would not be able to develop the strong rapport I had had with the kids at my previous school.
These two students sitting before me are part of that wonderful first group that has consistently validated my beliefs regarding school culture. They’ve validated me.
It truly is about relationships. It’s all about talking and sharing and listening and caring. It’s all about truly being there for each other.
“Hey!” I whispered, sneaking a peek over my shoulder at the teachers sitting at the banquet table. “Do you want anything from the desserts? I could sneak you something! Apple pie? Pumpkin pie? Cookies?”
“Nah,” both chimed in. “Thanks. We’re good.”
I insisted. “Cake? Brownies?”
Sal looked over at the teachers behind me and laughed. “No, but thanks,” he said. “Those people deserve the treats today!”
I grinned. He and Elise reached out their arms for a handshake. They thanked me again and wished me a good day.
I headed outside to pick up this year’s group of kids and then followed them back to the classroom…filled with great thanksgiving.