Every month, we reflect on a particular value as a whole school. November’s value has been gratitude and it has me thinking about what I am grateful for in my first year teaching at Chicago Friends School. I have been grateful to come to work every day and greet my students, to have the opportunity to get to know them as individuals in a way that I never would have at any of my previous schools. I have been grateful for my students, who are genuinely interested in learning. I have been grateful for the parents of my students, who collaborate with us in their child’s best interest. I have been grateful to the school community at large for welcoming and supporting me and my teaching partner in this first year at CFS.
Recently, I was especially grateful for the scheduling flexibility that Alyssa and I have that we wouldn’t have at a larger and more traditional middle school with fixed class periods. We were able to use the last two days before fall break to complete an immersive project that was officially considered science but covered reading, writing, and math skills as well. This project would not have happened without that flexibility.
It was timely, too, with the theme of gratitude, and the timing of Thanksgiving, as students spent those two days designing health bars for a famine relief scenario. Some students designed bars that would meet the metabolic needs of famine patients and other students designed to meet the needs of rescue workers. They had to examine the needs of these two groups and formulate the right health bar for their group, balancing taste, cost, and nutritional impact. I was proud of how our students handled this lengthy and challenging project. Most students decided that the most important criteria for their health bars would be that it met the metabolic needs of their population and that it utilized relatively low-cost ingredients so that it could be distributed to more people. Students did take taste into account, however, most students decided that taste was less important than the other criteria given the reason for the bars’ existence – famine relief. I was impressed by the thoughtfulness our students demonstrated in deciding which criteria to consider most strongly and I was grateful for all of the factors that came together to allow us to have this opportunity.