Young Folks’ Thanks

ICYMI: I’m a high school teacher in northern California. Building empathy and sharing love is often more important than teaching content or practicing skills, so I took time in each of my classes at the end of this week to have my students think, write, and then share things they’re thankful for. These are high school sophomores and juniors, from beautifully diverse backgrounds, and their insights into what is really important brings me so much joy and fills me with the kind of hope I wasn’t sure I’d be able to feel anymore, or at least any time soon.

I hope these sentiments inspire you as they inspired me. Or, if anything, make you laugh; because, at the end of the day, teenagers are still teenagers.

Anyhow, these are the highlights (quoted as best as my memory allows):

From a student whose family recently (like, last week) relocated from the midwest: “I’m thankful to have my whole family in one state for the first Thanksgiving ever.”

“I’m thankful for my education because not everyone can get one.”

“I’m thankful for soccer and my friends.”

“I’m thankful for sleep. Oh, and Netflix!”

“I’m thankful that I live in California because we have good weather and happy people, and we’re so lucky to be in the Golden State because a lot of places in this country don’t have what we have, so we’re really lucky. Everyone is happy in California, and I’m really thankful for that. I love the Golden State!”

“I’m thankful for my mom who wakes up early and makes my lunch every day.”

“I’m thankful for Stoney.” (Stoney is a Chameleon. This student has brought Stoney to class multiple times this year, and I don’t know if that’s allowed but I don’t care and I’m not going to ask because it’s amazing.)

In an elective class that’s been primarily the same cohort of 30 or so students since freshman year: “I’m thankful for my classmates who always have my back and let me be myself no matter what.”

In that same elective class: “I’m thankful that there are good people in the world who care enough to help out people who can’t help themselves.”

And another one of those elective kids, because they’re brilliant: “I’m thankful that this class is my family because on my dark days you make things brighter.”

“I’m thankful for Bernie Sanders.”

“I’m thankful for Michelle Obama. Michelle 2020!”

“I’m thankful for the Kanye West concert tonight and that I’m lucky enough to get to go, because most of my friends can’t.”

“I’m thankful for my teachers because they don’t get paid enough, they should get paid as much as doctors because they do the same important work.” And no, the student who said this doesn’t have a “suck up” bone in his body – he really meant it.

“I’m thankful to see my mom this week because I haven’t seen her in a few months.”

“I’m thankful for millennials because we’re going to be the ones who are going to fix this world and bring everyone together.”

“I’m thankful for sleep.” For the hundredth time, but just as sincere each time.

“I’m thankful for Netflix.” Also for the hundredth time, and also just as sincere every time.

“I’m thankful for chill ass teachers like you.” This student was definitely sucking up, but I don’t care, and I wasn’t even mad about the profanity. Because, if I’m being honest, I’m pretty thankful to have chill ass students like the one who said this.

On a final note: “I’m thankful for all of the people protesting right now. They show that not everyone is bad, actually that most people AREN’T bad, and it makes me feel a lot better about what’s going on right now in America. I’m glad people are allowed to do that. I think it’s going to be okay, because of those people.” After this student spoke, the other students started snapping (we do that instead of clapping – less loud/annoying/easier to get students refocused from) of their own volition, because these kids get it. They get it so hard and it’s so beautiful.

And me? I am thankful to be in each of these, and all of my students’ lives, and to help them be the change they will create in this world. I am thankful for their energy, their inspiration, and their tireless positivity. And I’m thankful for you, for reading this, because if you got this far it means you’re one of the people in this world who these kids look up to, and who gives these kids hope.

So, thank you for being the hope my kids see, because they are what inspires me to keep fighting, to never stay down, to rise.



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