Being Thankful (third — should be the fourth — annual)

Seriously, I’ve been writing blog posts for Shaeffer’s Forays since August, 2010.  I guess I’m pleased that I’ve kept at it, and while the posts are not as frequent as they once were, they continue to serve as a way for me to process my thoughts.

You may have noted the title (third — should be the fourth — annual); as it turns out, I failed to write a Being Thankful post last year, although I had as much to be thankful for last year as I do this year.

I have been thinking a lot about fate recently, and how lucky I’ve been to be in places that have allowed me to grow as an individual and a professional.  So let me start with how fate has served me so well as I navigated my way through my education.

I’m thankful that I was an undeclared major for nearly three years, because in that third year I began working with kids with special needs and discovered I wanted a career where I had the opportunity to work with and hopefully help people.  How lucky have I been to have had the opportunity to pursue this for nearly 30 years?

I am thankful that I had experience as middle school teacher in a high-risk area.  I learned so much from those kids and their parents.  I remember visiting one of the student’s homes where the only language spoken was Spanish — how humbling and yet gratifying to need my seventh grade student to help me communicate with his parents and grandparents.  The lesson of humility and a willingness to reach out to others is a lesson I hope I’ve never forgotten.

I am thankful that Kansas State offered a part-time master’s degree in Kansas City.  My master’s was in multicultural education, so I was lucky that my classes related directly to what I was seeing on a daily basis, and my papers and projects were based on real world challenges.

I’m thankful that after a 2-7 season, I was removed from Head Football Coach to Assistant Coach.  Don’t get me wrong — I learned a lot in my year as head coach (mostly things I wouldn’t do again), but being the Assistant Coach allowed me to sleep the night before and the night after the games. That year as head coach gave me way too many opportunities to build character and to gain respect for all those who are in leadership and coaching positions.  It is a heck of a lot harder than it looks.

I am thankful that I was Northwestern University’s admission’s mistake.  At Northwestern, I was lucky to have the opportunity to be the GA that developed programs to improve TA’s teaching.  It was this work that gave me an appreciation for the importance of teaching at colleges and universities. I found, through my own research, that what we do as teachers in the classroom really can impact (both positively and negatively) the learning of our students.  This experience continues to influence me in the development of programming for our off-campus students whether face-to-face, blended or online.

I am thankful that I had a thoughtful and encouraging major professor that treated me as a colleague and professional.  Thank you, Bob; you modeled the type of professional behavior that I continue to aspire to.  I’m thankful for my fellow students at Northwestern; I learned what it meant to be a good colleague where we all succeeded when the group succeeded.  I am especially thankful for my friendship with Larry, one of the most insightful and thoughtful people I knew, and my partner in loving the Cubs.  There were days when Larry and I didn’t make it all the way to Evanston and found ourselves in the center field bleachers at Wrigley. I learned all about loyalty from Larry and the Cubs.  He and our sons attended the Bartman game several years later at Wrigley (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Bartman_incident/). And by the way, it wasn’t Bartman’s fault.

Thanks to Larry and Bob, I had my first publications and made several professional presentations before I graduated.  These guys taught me the power of working in teams and working with partners.  I learned that I need to have that additional set of eyes, that different perspective, and that complimentary way of addressing an issue.  Man, I was lucky to have those two people in my life.

Little did I know that my education had only begun after I left Northwestern.  I am thankful for everyone I’ve worked with and for my colleagues.  You all have been patient with me and provided me untold insights.

Speaking of learning from others, I can’t end a blog post without mentioning my family.  This morning on the way to work, I mentioned to Peggy how blessed we’ve been to have such great kids, super daughters-in-law and soon to be son-in-law.  Peggy reminds me that their success is in spite of us.  To all you fellow grandparents out there, we are all lucky to have our grandchildren; we have six and welcomed two this year, Sammy and Silas.

Peggy, why do you put up with me? Heaven knows, but thank you for all you do.

I will end with two predictions: one, this time next year I will have that much more to be thankful for; and two, this IS the year of the Cubs.

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