"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." Philippians 4:12 (NIV)
As I sat down this morning to read my daily devotional I began to realize how much this scripture rings true in my life - personally and professionally. The last few months have been a bit of whirlwind to say the least. This is the time of the year that my job can really begin to get overwhelming - between the end of the 9 weeks, National FFA Convention, upcoming teams and contests, fundraisers, fair weigh-ins and tag-ins, and the various professional development trips I've had or have coming up in my schedule it becomes easy to focus on the obstacles and challenges I face in my job, not what I have to be thankful for. To complicate matters, Brandon has embarked on a journey of his own as he and a couple of other entrepreneurial spirits have started their own business, along with our continuing efforts with his brother to revitalize the family farm. As a result, my house has never been messier, student assignments (much like laundry and dishes) seem to be the gift that continuously keeps on giving - just as I get one pile graded, I've assigned something else and have twice as much to grade; my yard is looking a bit like the poster child for one of Jeff Foxworthy's "You Might be a Redneck" jokes, my waist line is expanding because when you leave before sunrise and come home after sunset ain't nobody got time for exercise, and of course my TO DO list is getting longer and longer by the minute.
But, I am SO thankful for these things and more! You see, I've had the opportunity over the past few weeks to travel around the state of Florida and the country with some of my favorite Agriculture Educators, and they've really helped me put some things into perspective. As all teachers do when they get together - it's probably one of our favorite past-times - my friends and I have shared both our frustrations with our job as well as the hilarious stories of our students and lessons. As a result of these conversations I realize now more than ever how lucky I am to be teaching a subject I'm passionate about and in a school district that I believe is one of the best in the state. Teaching, especially teaching high school agriculture, is hands-down one of the hardest jobs I have ever worked and I'd argue it is one of the hardest careers one could take on in today's world. Not convinced? Just spend a little extended time around any of your high school-age relatives this holiday season and I think you'll sympathize with our plight. With that said, although I have both a mentally and physically demanding job, it could be made so much more difficult if I worked this job under different circumstances - which is why I am thankful for a number of things:
First, I am thankful for my husband, my family, and my friends that continuously support me. Whenever I need something, they are the first people I reach out to so I can successfully execute whatever is on my plate. They are also the first people I neglect (and I'm ashamed to say so) when my schedule is as over-stuffed as your Thanksgiving turkey. Yet, they are understanding and patient with me as I squeeze them in and around all the lesson planning, FFA events, and SAE trips I have to make - sometimes even joining me as Brandon and I go to pick up a hog to weigh it, clip animals on the weekend, or keep me company at the fair - you know who you are and I can't thank you enough!
Second, I am thankful for the co-teachers I work with in the trenches, day in and day out. I've never worked in a single-teacher program and boy am I thankful for that! With every passing year I am in the classroom I realize more and more that I am only as successful as the program I work in and the people that I work with. I may be a bit biased, but our program is one of the best in the state of Florida and I'd even argue the nation. I believe it is because we each bring something to the table that benefits our students and our community, and we each specialize in contests and events throughout the year which helps to spread the responsibilities and workload out. I know that I can count on those that I work with to fill in for me when something comes up or offer help when I get overwhelmed. I know I can also count on them to offer me words of encouragement or words of honest frankness when I need them the most.
Third, I am thankful for the school district and administration I work for. The common culprit in many teaching frustration conversations is an un-supportive group of administrators. Like anything in government, teaching and education policy can be dictated as much by politics and the bottom line as anything else. I truly feel that my administration works diligently to shield us from that as much as possible. They listen to our concerns as teachers as it relates to the evaluation system, End of Course Exams, the time demands placed on us, lesson planning requirements, budgets, program needs, travel requirements, and anything else we fret over on a daily basis. I've never really asked for much, but I can't remember a time I was told "no" for a professional development need, travel request, or budget request. I also can't remember a time that I didn't see our Superintendent, School Board members, principal or AP (both from the high school and other schools in the county), and other district employees not come out to support our kids at an event like our banquet, fair, or any other chapter event. I know this doesn't happen at all programs in all areas of our state, and I am thankful for the support we receive.
Lastly, I am thankful for the community I work in and the students I work for. Our community is unique in that it is small and is home to several state-run prisons. As a result, I believe the parents businesses, and members of the community realize how important a well-rounded education truly is to the future success of the youth in the community. Many programs around the state and country are in a constant state of fundraising to generate money for lessons, FFA events, and other things that make an agricultural program (or really any educational program) run smoothly. Although we too find ourselves coming up with ways to creatively generate additional funds for the program, I am always overwhelmed by the generosity of those in our community and thankful for their continued support, year after year. As a result, we can focus on our students, our program, and ways to give back. Additionally, I wouldn't be here if weren't for my students. This year has honestly been one of my best groups of kids, and I couldn't be more thankful for that. I sometimes hear horror stories of disrespect and apathy from other teachers in other parts of the state. It is during these conversations that I remain silently thankful for the kids I work with each day - they are not perfect, but who is in this world?
Like I said, this job is hard - really, really hard. But it could be more difficult and for that I am thankful.