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How Gratitude Makes Us, and Our Students, Better

By Dave Stuart Jr.

Post Image--Gratitude

Gratitude has been on my mind a lot this week. In some ways, gratitude has been easy; in other ways, it’s been hard. And all along the way, it’s been interesting to examine how the character strength of gratitude can make us and our students the kinds of people we want to be.

I. Easy

“I need bersherber. No. Bersherber. No…”

In the wee hours of this past Wednesday morning, my wife Crystal woke up with a bad headache that quickly escalated into an inability to speak coherently — she literally could not speak clear sentences like “I need mouth wash.” It was as if she knew in her head what she needed to say, but then when she went to say it, gibberish came out. And she knew it was gibberish, so she kept trying to correct herself to no avail.

Fearing that this was much more than a headache, I called 911, and by the time the ambulance got to our house, Crystal couldn’t tell me how old our daughters are or who the current president of the United States is.

The one thing she could say? “I love you.” Over and over again, she’d intersperse her garbled sentences by looking into my eyes and saying, through the pain and confusion, “I love you.”

Scary doesn’t work well to describe it.

Thankfully, about 12 hours after her symptoms started, she began coming back to herself in the hospital. A CT scan and EEG and MRI and spinal tap later, doctors determined that she had a case of the best kind of viral meningitis you can get. No stroke, no tumor, no number of other very bad things that it could have been. She’s been home for a day now, and as I write this, she’s resting in bed.

Needless to say, I’m a thankful husband. It is not difficult at all right now to think, hundreds of times per day, of how grateful I am for Crystal.

We underrate the connection between gratitude and being good at life

Guess what? Repetitively thinking of how thankful I am to simply have my wife, Crystal, has a powerful effect on the frequency of my loving actions toward her. With these thoughts of gratitude on a loop in my mind, I haven’t had to muster up energy to love Crystal. No matter how tired I’ve been, there’s no resistance to speaking tenderly or cleaning the house or dominating Kid Duty or tackling mundane tasks that I know she’ll try doing despite her need for rest.

This is because of gratitude, which acts like a fusion reactor of willpower, energizing us to do the work we need to do, whether it be the work of love or the work of teaching or the work of studying. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is for us as teachers who want to teach well, who want their students to flourish in the long-term, and who want to lead good lives.

Doing the work we were born to do — the relational work, the intellectual work, the creative work, the Work Boots work — takes energy, which, for many of us teachers, is in short supply. Gratitude adds to that supply.

This is why our students desperately need it, too. Meet Cabdul.

Why we need to teach gratitude: Cabdul’s story

Prior to our mid-week scare with Crystal, I was hard at work revising Never Finished: Continually Becoming the Teachers We Want to Be (and Staying Sane in the Process). In one part of the book, I briefly touch upon each of the character strengths I use in my classroom, and when I address gratitude, I tell the story of Cabdul.

One of the most grateful young men I know. I carry his senior picture in my wallet to remind myself of the power of gratitude.

Probably the most grateful young man I know. I carry his senior picture in my wallet to remind myself of the power of gratitude.

From Never Finished: Continually Becoming the Teachers We Want to Be (and Staying Sane in the Process):

I love telling my students about Cabdul Ciise, an undergraduate student at Grand Valley University. When I first met Cabdul as a high school freshman, he was remarkably quiet. I quickly learned why: Cabdul lacked the ability to write or speak anything more than the simplest sentence in English.

I learned that Cabdul and his family were Somalian refugees; years before, they had fled the Somalian conflict when it began to threaten their neighborhood. They traded a life of middle class comfort in Somalia for safe passage on a ship to Turkey. Over the next few years, Cabdul would lose a sister, spend three years in Turkey, and after having finally received refugee status from the United Nations, he would end up in Michigan. When I met Cabdul, he had been in the US for just a year, and during that year he’d been in another district where he was shoved into an over-crowded ESL program. The program did have some fellow Somalian refugees in it, however, which lent comfort for Cabdul and his siblings while restricting immersion in English. As a result, Cabdul, as a freshman in high school, was by far the lowest reader and writer in his entire grade.

And yet, four years later, Cabdul graduated in the Top Ten of his class. The reason, from my observational and teacher perspective, was obvious: Cabdul had incredibly well-developed character strengths, things like grit and self-control. Cabdul studied every day for as many hours as he spent in school — this included snow days and weekends. He probably asked dozens of questions per day, and he took advantage of any teacher’s offer for after-school tutoring. Basically, there wasn’t anything Cabdul didn’t do to be successful.

At his graduation open house, I asked Cabdul what motivated him to work so hard, he essentially answered that it was gratitude. He was grateful for the many teachers who gave him extra help; he was grateful for the sacrifices his parents had made to get him to safety; he was determined to show his gratitude by being successful.

What would our classes be like if all of our students had the gratitude of Cabdul? What would our nations be like?

II. Hard

Teaching a skill is one thing; helping someone use it consistently is another

The thing with gratitude, like all of the character strengths, is that we know it’s a powerful predictor of success; we know it’s a trait of people we tend to admire; we know we need it. And yet.

And yet, as is so often the case, there is great difficulty in consistently acting in light of the things we know to be true.

I know that the man who proposed to Crystal Edwards in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor had no intention of ever taking her for granted. And yet I do.

I know that, as a punk undergraduate freshman who decided he wanted to teach, I had no intention of ever taking this job for granted. And yet I do.

I know none of my freshmen students, at the beginning of the school year, have any intention of failing to realize their semester one goals. And yet so many of them do.

Knowing isn’t enough; it’s the doing that counts. And while character strengths seem to be one heck of a promising sword in our battle to do the work of teaching as best we can, there’s still so much we need to learn about helping our students (and ourselves) transform it from head knowledge to consistent behavior.

The power of habit

I’m reading Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business right now, and it comes at a good time. It seems to me that our brain’s ability to create habits is part of the key to more consistently living according to our ideals. My hunch is that, for the folks who are gritty every day or self-controlled or socially intelligent, there’s both a skill element and a habit element. The skill part enables them to do the skill; the habit part enables them to do it with less energy, less thought.

I don’t have the answer here to truly building the character strengths in our students, but this idea of helping them habituate the strengths is one of the things I’m most excited about in that area of my work right now.

When habits collide

So it’s last night (Friday), I’ve got all my girls in bed, and my determination kicks in. I grab a cup of coffee, throw a dash of Kahlua in there for good measure (hey, it’s Friday night — gotta be cray somehow), and fire up my laptop.

Why so lame? Because I’ve got about 20,000 words of ebook manuscript to revise before shipping it off to my freelance copyeditor, who has said she can get it to me by the 14th if I get it to her on the 10th. The timing is important here, as the ebook is supposed to release on 1/15/15 at 1:15pm (cute, right?).

Because of the crazy events of the week, I was super behind on my revision schedule, but I was still determined to make it work.

This was habit, too. It was the habit of getting it done and out the door, of making good on commitments, of using deadlines and schedules to force me to produce a body of work I’ll be happy with in five years [1]. Basically, it was grit.

But as the hours waxed on and Friday night became wee Saturday morning, my old man’s body started complaining, my brain began shutting down, and guess what? I started forgetting all that I had to be grateful for this week; instead, I started resenting all that had happened to get me so far behind.

By 2am, I had collapsed in on myself. I went to bed defeated, having not finished the work I needed to do to meet my deadline for the day.

Going to bed defeated only 48 hours or so after wondering if my wife’s brain was going to be the same again is what we call a gratitude epic fail.

All part of the game of getting better.

III. Better

I’ll close with a few brief thoughts and one announcement:

  1. Just because something isn’t a silver bullet doesn’t mean it’s not a great thing. I failed at gratitude last night, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop working toward building gratitude in my kids, my students, and myself. We can be too quick in education to throw things out that are actually quite good just because they didn’t produce a desired result quickly enough (ahem, Common Core, maybe?). My friends, hear this: character strengths like gratitude are important; character is important. We need to keep working at it, without sacrificing the critical knowledge and skills in the curricula for each of our subject areas.
  2. Part of being a Never Finished teacher is realizing that failure is a normal part of growth. Gratitude is more like a muscle than a merit badge. You don’t earn it; you develop it and then work to keep it in shape.
  3. While my upcoming, self-published ebook will get finished, it won’t release this week Thursday as originally planned. The new release date is Monday, 1/19. Crystal is still on bed rest, but I think this new date allows me enough time to make up for the decreased workload I’ll be taking on as I seek to be at home during as many of her waking hours as possible until she’s 100% got this viral meningitis kicked.

Thanks for reading, everyone. It’s comforting to know that I write for a group of like-minded, supportive friends. Cheers.

Footnotes:

1. Thank you to Barrett Brooks for this concept of a body of work to be happy with in five years.

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60 Responses to How Gratitude Makes Us, and Our Students, Better

  1. Shawn January 10, 2015 at 7:55 pm #

    Thanks for this post, Dave. I too am working to incorporate this concept in my weekly routine both for my students and for myself. I am sorry for the unfortunate setback with your wife and I wish you both the best in her recovery! I am thankful for your work as you continue to inspire me as a young teacher. Take care this week and I look forward to your book being published (when the time is right, of course)!

    Shawn

    • davestuartjr January 10, 2015 at 11:22 pm #

      Shawn, it’s always great to hear from you, man. I so admire your teachability and earnestness; I know you’re going to do great things and already are for your students.

      Thank you for encouraging me, Shawn. I can’t wait to get that book to you 🙂

  2. Kay January 10, 2015 at 11:34 pm #

    Dave,

    You are such an inspiration to an old(er) teacher. I, too, want to appreciate all the wonderful blessings God has given me. Thank you for a beautiful reminder for a wonderful start to this new year. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your beautiful wife and girls. You are blessed to have each other. Can’t wait to get your new book—–but I will gladly be patient.

    Kay from Gulfport!

    • davestuartjr January 11, 2015 at 12:07 am #

      Kay, so good to hear from you, my friend from NCTE14 🙂 Thank you so much, and many, many blessings to you, your husband, and your kids!

  3. Bobbi Jo Wiescamp January 11, 2015 at 12:37 am #

    Dave,

    I am fairly new to your blog. I have been AoW stalking for awhile, and have recently attempted to incorporate it into my Senior English class. I love your blog/posts. You are extremely insightful and have a common sense approach to teaching…which I appreciate. I am grateful I stumbled across your blog; I am grateful to read your email tonight; I am grateful your wife is healthy and resting/recovering. Your post is a great reminder that I desperately needed…I am grateful for my 15 years of teaching young adults. I sometimes forget to be grateful for the opportunity to TEACH. I love teaching, and I get caught up in the paper work, political crud, and crazy teacher evals that we are currently enduring. Thank you for reminding me to take a moment to not only smell, but also appreciate the roses. 🙂

    Lots of well-wishes and prayers sent your way!
    Bobbi Jo in Colorado

    • davestuartjr January 11, 2015 at 2:12 am #

      Bobbi, what a lovely comment to receive from someone who’s new here — it’s great to have you! I love your “I am grateful” comments; I got goosebumps.

      Take care Bobbi Jo — and hey, I need to come to Colorado sometime to do a workshop, so spread the word! 🙂

  4. Beth January 11, 2015 at 1:09 am #

    Dave, I’m grateful to know that you really aren’t Superman in teacher costume, but human like the rest of us. You rock (or you are a rock). Stay safe and all the best to you and your family! 🙂

    • davestuartjr January 11, 2015 at 2:13 am #

      100% human — maybe more than 100% (not a math guy). Thank you, Beth. All the best to you during this cold week in MI!

  5. brohleder January 11, 2015 at 5:19 am #

    You absolutely need to come to South Carolina to talk to a group of high school teachers who are about as demoralized ad ungrateful as I have ever ever worked with…and I’ve worked with quite a few different sets of teachers. You are that necessary ray of sunshine and thunderbolt of logic that this community of teachers desperately need.
    A daily prayer goes out to you, your wife, and children.
    A newbie to your blog.
    Brooke

    • davestuartjr January 12, 2015 at 10:09 pm #

      Brooke, I would love to, trust me! Also, what praise: “a ray of sunshine and thunderbolt of logic” — nice 🙂

      Thank you for your prayers as well, Brooke. Crystal has good days and bad days.

  6. Mary Lou January 11, 2015 at 6:34 am #

    After reading 1000 gifts and seeing the research, I’ve been telling everyone I know about gratitude. My article of the week was also about how being positive can help people be more successful in school and work. Preach on!

    • davestuartjr January 12, 2015 at 10:10 pm #

      I’ve got to read that one, Mary Lou 🙂 Thank you!

  7. Jennifer Gonzalez January 11, 2015 at 7:33 am #

    Love this, Dave. Thanks for the honesty. I have gratitude fails all the time. I can now add your story (and Cabdul’s) to my arsenal of stuff I use to wake myself up to everything I have to appreciate. Happy Sunday to you!

    • davestuartjr January 12, 2015 at 10:10 pm #

      And to you, Jennifer! Thank you; it’s always great hearing from the Cult of Pedagogy 🙂

  8. Shannon Eldridge January 11, 2015 at 7:50 am #

    And you did all of this and a twitter book chat, too? Thank you for reminding me how much mind there is over matter.

    • davestuartjr January 12, 2015 at 10:11 pm #

      The girls were in bed just in time for the chat, Shannon! Thank you for coming by my blog 🙂

  9. Kirthi January 11, 2015 at 7:56 am #

    Hi Dave,

    I am newbie here but I so look forward to reading your posts. In someways it has kept me sane. This is my first year teaching High School Science. Needless to say, it has been quite a ride so far and it really can be a herculean task to remember to be grateful. But I do occasionally and that is when I realize that there is nothing else I would rather do.

    Thanks for being a voice of sanity for new teachers like me. 🙂 Hope everything gets better soon.

    ~Kirthi from Maryland

    • davestuartjr January 12, 2015 at 10:31 pm #

      Kirthi, it is so cool for me to hear that my posts are a source of encouragement, especially as a new teacher. Do stay sane; keep reading 🙂
      Yours,
      Dave

  10. kimolsen January 11, 2015 at 8:44 am #

    More wonderful advice. Prayers for you and Crystal. I had no idea you were going through this! Gratitude is everything.

    • davestuartjr January 13, 2015 at 9:35 pm #

      Kim, thank you for your prayers sister! Also, thank you for the scantrons yesterday 🙂

  11. Elizabeth January 11, 2015 at 9:02 am #

    You are such an inspiration! The personal story of your wife’s illness really hit home for me. My freshman year of college I ended up in the hospital with meningitis and in the ICU; it was terrifying! So glad to hear she is recovering and you are by her side. I am going to read the story of Cabdul at my next staff meeting to share some gratitude and inspiration with other teachers. Thanks for always being so uplifting even when you are not feeling so and showing the world you are human.

    • davestuartjr January 14, 2015 at 10:20 am #

      Yeah that college meningitis seems like it’s always horrible — they mentioned that at the hospital. Thank you so much for sharing Cabdul’s story; he is part of a beautiful, beautiful family; our town is blessed to have them.

  12. Michelle January 11, 2015 at 9:15 am #

    It’s early on Sunday…the day I was going to sleep in and couldn’t…I kept thinking of a problem at school and my job. I woke feeling resentful. And there you were in my inbox!

    THANK YOU for the message, the reminder, and the powerful words to share that may just solve the problem that got me out of bed too early!

    • davestuartjr January 14, 2015 at 10:24 am #

      Michelle, I love messages like this; they keep me writing because I never know when something I write might be just the thing someone else needs to hear right now! It was certainly the post I needed to hear, too 🙂

  13. Christina Gray January 11, 2015 at 9:55 am #

    Hi Dave,
    I first came to your blog as an ela teacher and instructional leader desperately looking for ways to motivate both my students and a notoriously difficult (though talented) high school language arts department. Common Core (or as we call it here L.A.F.S.-seriously-not a joke) fans they were not!

    Now I continue to follow it as a district (the 5th largest one in the state) literacy support person desperately looking to motivate teachers and students across the district. I always enjoy reading your posts, but today’s struck particularly close to home as it came while I was grinding my teeth over an unexpected assignment for tomorrow morning and growling at my three-year-old daughter to go play because Mommy has to work. Your timely post snapped me back from that gratitude fail; That I am here and at home with my family and we are all healthy and that I have a job that I love to return to tomorrow. So thank you. I hope your wife and family are doing well.

    Sincerely,
    Christina from Florida

    P.S. It is currently 75 here in South Florida with a high of 79 for the day. Not a bad place to have to come and speak in the winter. Just sayin’.

    • davestuartjr January 14, 2015 at 11:39 am #

      Christina, I’d love to come — share this link with someone who pulls the trigger on literacy PD! I’ve done this workshop 5 times and counting in a large California district for 6-12 audiences in across the subject areas. They are finding that it helps cut through the noise and focus on simple, impactful practices without sacrificing core content knowledge.

      And thank you for sharing your gratitude fail — may we fail productively!

  14. Dannielle January 11, 2015 at 10:06 am #

    Although I have never commented, I’ve been following your blog posts for a while now and really appreciate your work. I feel so often as if your words and ideas express all of my aspirations for my students and my classroom. While I have played with many of the same ideas as you (AoW, debate, character education), your posts help me to see these ideas so much more clearly. You seem to be implementing all of the things that I have been striving to incorporate in a way that I just haven’t yet felt able to master. Your posts make me want to throw away my school’s ideas of appropriate curriculum and just go wholeheartedly ahead with the practices and lessons that I believe will actually be of most benefit to my students in the long run. In the spirit of gratitude, I wanted to take a moment to thank YOU for the work that you are doing. I am thankful for your posts and your ideas and how freely and willingly you share your resources and ideas. Take care,
    Dannielle from NJ (and, I pre-ordered your ebook ;))

    • davestuartjr January 14, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

      Dannielle,

      Well thank you for saying hi 🙂 What life-giving words you share; please know that I don’t know if I’ll ever feel as if I’ve mastered a technique — but that’s part of what drives me, as I can tell it drives you.

      Your heart is what encourages me most about what’s happening in your classroom; great teaching will inexorably flow from it, curriculum aside. Keep doing the work; keep thinking hard about it; keep connecting it with kids.

      Encouraged by you!

  15. Lynsay January 11, 2015 at 10:41 am #

    Dave, I’m remembering a prior post where you compared a teacher’s mind and heart to a garden that needs constant pruning. When I read it, I actually cried, because I knew I had a great amount of pruning to do after several years of go-go-go teaching. But I didn’t really know where to start, and I kept feeling like a bad person for the thoughts I was having.

    In this post, you have made that thinking visible– you are exposing your mind and heart to the world and teaching us how to prune. And that is a very brave thing that almost no one does. Thank you for trusting us with your story, to learn and not judge. It is an invaluable gift.

    And of course, love and prayers for Crystal. Anyone who helps you do what you do is a hero to me.

    Lynsay from New Orleans

    • davestuartjr January 14, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

      Lynsay — I think you’re talking about this post. I am thankful that my post has helped make visible what is so visible to those I’m in life with every day: that the work of pruning is continual; eventually, you just come to expect and be comfortable with the idea that you will fail not just externally, but also internally (such as the gratitude fail mentioned in this post). Thank you for encouraging me to keep being open, Lynsay.

      And thank you for the beautiful line, “Anyone who helps you do what you do is a hero to me.” Now we are even on drawing tears with our writing.

      Yours,
      Dave

  16. kp12342014Kerry January 11, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

    In the midst of rough times, we are teachers seem to want to flee. In return, we actually are fleeing from a much needed change and a change that benefits our students. Your inspiration is endless. You talk real talk…nothing covered or swept under the rug! Thanks for being real and encouraging others in tough times. I wish the best for your family and most importantly your wife. Looking forward to you book.

    • davestuartjr January 14, 2015 at 1:17 pm #

      kp, thank you for your kind words; words like these help me better understand who I am as a writer for teachers and what I have to offer. Thank you so much, and for your thoughts about my family.

  17. Kay January 11, 2015 at 1:55 pm #

    Dave, I purchased your Pop Up Debate materials last night, and just had time to look over them. I have been wanting to have more informal debates in my classroom, and this is the perfect source with all the materials that I need to get started — tomorrow! Now I have time to spend with my husband this beautiful Sunday other than search and search, retype, prepare a power point, and come up with some way to grade it and……..Yes, it saves me hours! Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing. You’re right the kids love to debate, and now I can do it weekly or more! (And my students thank-you) Again, Kay Gulfport

    • davestuartjr January 14, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

      Kay, so great to hear from you, and what a resounding endorsement for the Pop Up Debate Starter Kit. I do think pop-up lends itself to informal, minimal-prep argumentative class discussion. Make sure to try Erik Palmer’s PVLEGS when teaching students to mind their delivery.

      It is so good to hear from you, Kay. Looking forward to seeing you again someday 🙂

      • Elizabeth January 14, 2015 at 7:26 pm #

        I ABSOLUTELY love PVLEGS!!! I have shared it with all my teachers at my school. The students love it too!

  18. Twins Happen January 11, 2015 at 4:01 pm #

    I’m so glad that everything’s going to be okay for your family. Life happens. I’ve only recently “found” you, and I just want to let you know that your words of encouragement have been a light in the darkness I’ve been feeling in this last year. Thank you for your regular posts. I’ve purchased your ebook, and I’m really looking forward to its release.

    • davestuartjr January 14, 2015 at 1:29 pm #

      Hi Twins Happen 🙂 I am so grateful for your words! I have hoped I could shed light into this work we do; being a little candle would be very rewarding. Thank you so much.

  19. Kristy L. January 11, 2015 at 5:33 pm #

    I needed to read this today. Thank you! I’m glad your wife is healing and I’m grateful for all of the ideas, help, and encouragement I’ve gotten from your blog since I discovered it a few months ago. I’m also thankful for the inspiration I got from your post to write one of my own (I’ve been lacking motivation and inspiration lately). So, thank you again! 🙂

    Here’s a link to my post, if you’re interested! http://kloudenclear.blogspot.com/

    • davestuartjr January 14, 2015 at 1:30 pm #

      I loved the post you wrote, Kristy. Keep up the great work down their in Alabama; keep representing for the Mighty Mitten State.

  20. Karman Mak January 11, 2015 at 11:52 pm #

    Thank you for sharing so openly and so thoughtfully. Your sharing with us your vulnerabilities is one of the reasons why I appreciate your blog so much. Too often, as teachers, we are expected to be perfect. But that perfection and fixed mindset gets in the way of us getting better. You reveal the story behind great teaching – the growing pains, the thoughts, the processes. And it is all so helpful. And this was a powerful entry that helps remind us of what is most important – gratitude. Sending healing blessings to your wife. May she quickly recover and be well.

    • davestuartjr January 14, 2015 at 1:33 pm #

      I 100% agree that there is an expectation of perfection in our profession. Kids are so valuable; no good teacher minimizes that. Our work is a journey; we hold the standard higher and deeper than the superficial, unrealistic notions of excellence that often pervade talks about teacher accountability.

      Thank you for your love toward my family.

  21. rachelwasserman2013 January 12, 2015 at 6:25 am #

    My best wishes go to you and your family for a speedy and full recovery for your wife. Family is the rock that keeps us anchored — I hope you have many years of happiness with your wife and children.

    • davestuartjr January 14, 2015 at 1:33 pm #

      Thank you Rachel! Good to hear from you, as always.

  22. Julie Dwyer January 12, 2015 at 8:30 am #

    Dave!
    What a week to find yourself in the middle of, I am so glad that it is having a positive resolution. We all take our life and health for granted, until it is challenged, and then we stop and realize what is really important. As a teacher transitioning from a coaching position back to the classroom, I need to remind my self regularly that this is my passion and I am truly grateful for the opportunities that I have.
    May this week find your life settling down to the normal chaos.
    Julie from Waterford, NY where it is very cold and snowy

    • davestuartjr January 14, 2015 at 1:34 pm #

      It sure was! The normal chaos still eludes us a week later, but the blessing of gratitude is there.

      Cheers to you in still-cold Waterford from still-cold Michigan 🙂

  23. Julie Buzard January 12, 2015 at 8:55 am #

    My favorite post yet. Thank you.

  24. Anita January 12, 2015 at 10:31 am #

    My instructional coach (Karman Mak, whose comment I read above) sent me a link to your impactful teaching post this winter break. I read it, took notes, clicked on every link, took more notes, friended your page on Facebook, signed up for your blog (grateful for the goodies!) and pre bought your soon to appear e-book. I guess I can say I’m a convert. My winter break ended today (over 90% Latino school, most immigrant or first generation…lots of ESL and ELL students)because our families gather for dis de los reyes (3 Kings day, or, in English usage,epiphany.)When I got up in the dark and arrived at school before dawn, I was not feeling grateful. In the middle of reading your blog, (all best wishes to Crystal, you, and your family, BTW) one of my former students, now working at the school. dropped in to chat. I was filled with gratitude that my former students want to stay in touch. Which, in turn, made me grateful for my charter school and its mission and wiped away my negative attitude. Thank you so much for reminding all of us to exercise the gratitude muscle!

    • davestuartjr January 14, 2015 at 1:36 pm #

      Ah, Anita — you’ve so got it. It is a muscle; I’m so glad to have you as part of this great community of determined teachers. And thank you for your kind words and for supporting my work by pre-purchasing the ebook!

  25. Steve Crosby January 12, 2015 at 10:45 am #

    Hi Dave. I’m grateful for your post – needed to hear it. So glad your wife is recovering. I’m a 27 year teacher wanting my last years to be excellent and the best – yet I often feel overwhelmed and like a failure. I came across your stuff the end of last year while looking for Common Core help. Love your approach – it’s inspirational, yet honest and challenging. I especially appreciate including the oft-overlooked character piece. Keep up the great – and important – work! Stay sane.

    • davestuartjr January 14, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

      Steve, thank you so much. I so resonate with that constant, nagging sense that we’re failing, and then the little imp that slithers up on our shoulders and says, “Psst — you’re failures make you a failure.”

      I’m so glad to have you with us during your last, and best, years. Keep defying the belief that it’s all going to hell, Steve. And you stay sane, too.

  26. Diane Mattison-Nottage January 12, 2015 at 11:04 am #

    Dave,
    I’ve been reading, enjoying and using your blog for a while now but usually don’t respond. However, this one really resonated with me. I am grateful for teachers like you who, on top of everything else, will take precious time away from family and work to inspire us to be better. This post as also inspired me to purchase my first e-book. I am also sending a link to your blogs to a first year teacher I am mentoring this year (Thanks Anita for helping me make that connection!). On a more personal note, my 6 year old grandson battled this same kind of meningitis last August so I understand how frightening it is! He is now a thriving 2nd grader, has made a full recovery and is up to his old tricks keeping his parents on their toes and making his little sister crazy. He announced over winter break that he wants to be a music teacher when he grows up, how awesome is that. My best to you and your wife and daughters, take care and be well.

    • davestuartjr January 14, 2015 at 1:40 pm #

      Diane, thank you for taking the time to respond. Comments are my favorite about blogging — it means a lot when someone takes the time to write one. How incredibly scary to see a little one go through this; I cannot imagine. May he be an legendary music teacher someday — can’t think of a better calling!

  27. Kathy Nolan January 14, 2015 at 10:47 am #

    You inspire me every time I read you. I’m working with groups of ELA teachers this week and shared your blog with them. Yours is always the first resource out of my mouth when talking with teachers and colleagues. Hang in there and prayers to you and your family!

    • davestuartjr January 14, 2015 at 1:43 pm #

      Kathy, that’s humbling praise! You are too good to recommend me to so many; I hope things are well with you in Ohio!

  28. Diana January 14, 2015 at 12:02 pm #

    Dave,
    I’m sorry to hear about your wife. As you know, “this, too, shall pass;” but, it will take time. I hope you will both allow yourselves the time it takes. I was out for 3 months at the beginning of 2013 with fungal meningitis. It then took about a year to get off all the medication and feel back to normal. No fun, but alas, I now feel stronger, calmer, and more confident than I ever have in my life. I pray Crystal comes through it stronger as well. Keep the faith, and keep fighting the good fight. God bless you, everyone! (Close enough to the season, right?!?)

    • davestuartjr January 14, 2015 at 1:43 pm #

      Hoooly cow, Diana — now I’m scared! The doctors mentioned that there are so many worse kinds of meningitis to get; fungal was one of them. Bless your heart for fighting through that! I really do pray that this ends up being something we look back on as a positive turning point in our lives; it is certainly jarring us out of normal, and that is often whatever you decide to make of it. I just want to be teachable during the whole thing.

  29. Dr. Ellen Brewer January 22, 2015 at 5:28 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your story Dave!

  30. teachingismyjam July 12, 2015 at 12:11 pm #

    Dave,
    I wanted to extend my gratitude to you for creating this amazing blog. It is both an excellent resource and a source of inspiration. I’m entering my first year of teaching, and while there are many first year resources out there, many possess a vaguely scolding tone that leave me feeling depleted and anxious rather than eager and excited. In your blog, I find only goodness, light, and great ideas. Whenever I read one of your posts, I find myself getting closer to having the “grit” I need for my first year! Thank you for your service to teachers (and students) everywhere.
    Laura

    • davestuartjr July 17, 2015 at 6:23 pm #

      Oh Laura, I don’t know what I love more. Your name, first of all (my second daughter’s name is Laura, and one of my dearest influencers in life was named Laura), or the sweet heart it’s attached to. Thank you for your words, which give me more life than you can know. To hear that this blog can be a resource for beginning teachers that I wish I had had when I was starting out… that starts to get at exactly why I write each post; that’s the impact I want to you.
      All the blessings to you and your students next year. Grit, indeed, my friend — passion + persistence.
      Much love to you,
      Dave

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