Thinking coherently at the end of the first day of school is a challenge, but I know I hit the pillow realistically thinking, I'm going to earn my keep this year. I woke up the next morning and stumbled across a strategy that provided some perspective. While camped out on my couch with a class list in my lap, I thanked God out loud for each of my kids, naming specific gratitude regarding each one.
I felt bad along the way about those names that made me pause, like the shyest ones who hid within their quiet walls or the ones on the other end of the spectrum who stood out for all the wrong reasons. I attempted genuine gratitude for them all, but I admittedly relied on "I'm thankful for their smile" a few too many times. Granted, I had spent less than seven hours with them, most of that being a blur, but regardless, I felt like I had let some of them down. I purposed that day to teach with a radar awareness for those who are easy to miss as well as for those who need to be seen in a different light than the one their behavior screams for.
On the morning of day three I sat down on my couch again and talked to God about my kids, thanking Him specifically for each one. I recalled moments the day before when I'd smiled in realization about my discovery of gratitude regarding a shy one. Uncovering the positive in a challenging student was just as rewarding. Granted, I still thanked God for some smiles, but I felt the growing gift of knowing my students more and more.
I've daily repeated this mental gratitude journal throughout this first full week of school. Even when I've frustratingly finished a long day, my mind eventually returns to those nuggets of gratitude. They both ground me and provide perspective. They help me figure out who all these little people really are. To be thankful for them is to know and love them all the more and helps me be the teacher they need me to be today and every day.