When I heard recently about someone who died with these last words, it occurred to me, somewhat unexpectedly, that I could probably say them at the end of almost every English class. In fact, I do try to say thanks to the kids as they leave the classroom, since they all bring remarkable gifts to class each day. Some bring newborn wisdom won from other classes or video games or books or movies or small talk with friends, while others simply bring their special behavior, be it stillness or noisiness, openhandedness or restraint, confidence or timidity. Some, of course, bring occasional discourtesy, but even that is a gift we benefit from as we promptly bring their incivility around again to graciousness and learn a good lesson. I could also say “I have no complaints” at the end of any class, because, honestly, what is there to complain about in working with flourishing, audacious, and essentially kindhearted kids? Certainly there are mistakes and disappointments in every class, but that’s no worse than sunny skies turning temporarily cloudy or a stream swerving one way around a rock instead of another. Who can complain about the way waves wash onto a beautiful beach on different days, or about the strange and astonishing occurrences in a class of teenagers? It’s totally clear to me that this life -- and this work of teaching -- deserve way more gratitude than grumbling.
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