Welcome 2017 – A Year to Appreciate

By miller727@icloud.com January 2, 2017 Uncategorized 1 Comment

I have enjoyed a restful yet relatively productive holiday break. I hope it was equally positive for all of you.

I slept in until the sun came up most days, enjoyed some wonderful time with family and friends, finished a few projects at work and around the house, cleaned out a couple of closets that Fibber McGee would be proud of, and read a few books that had absolutely nothing to do with education.

Oh yeah, I also finished the Internet – so there’s that.

Well, to be completely honest, I didn’t exactly finish the whole Internet – just a few select parts that I knew would make me smile or laugh, inspire me, or generally put me in a better mood.

As many others have commented over the past few weeks, 2016 was not the greatest of years. Irrespective of one’s political leanings, it is difficult to imagine people looking back at 2016 someday and saying, “Wow, that was a great year for America.”

To stretch this point, author Dave Barry, in his annual “Year in Review” column, summarized the last twelve months as a “a hideous monstrosity of a year” and a year in which Americans will look back on in the future and remark: “What the HELL?”

Anyhow, I am choosing to not dwell further in any of the residual negativity associated with last year. At 55 years old, I just don’t have enough years left to spend being pessimistic or downcast. Like Richard Carlson wrote in his bestselling book twenty years ago: “Don’t sweat the small stuff … and it’s all small stuff.”

He is right.

I am not saying we shouldn’t take our lives and the events that shape them seriously. We must all fight vigorously and passionately for those principles and ideals we hold dear. At the same time, we must also guard against the unintended consequence of viewing those who don’t agree with us with distrust or antipathy.

We must do a better job of arguing ideas, not people.

I submit that what made 2016 so stressful for many of us was not the actual events. Rather, it was the piling on of harmful rhetoric, the angry tone of it all, the lack of compassion and absence of empathy from far too many Americans, and the seemingly gleeful nature around the personal denigration of others.

It should be the consummate goal of every generation to leave our great nation in a better place for the generations which will follow.

I genuinely worry about the lessons we are teaching our children about civility, character, honor, and respect. Maybe they are too involved with their screens to pay attention.

I also know that I am just one minuscule piece of a much larger cog. Yet, most of what happens in our lives can be traced back to our own choices and attitude.

With that in mind, I can control myself – my words and actions, and the manner in which I treat others.

In 2017, I will strive to be more appreciative of the many blessings in my life: my family and friends, my co-workers, my earthly possessions, and the incredible privilege of being an American citizen in this extraordinary 21st century.

Relative to this blog, I will continue in 2017 to do what I can to passionately advocate for Oklahoma’s schools, teachers, and children. As my friend Rick Cobb articulated well in his blog post yesterday, we will have many challenges in the upcoming year.

We will always have education policies and ideas worthy of debate. So, in the new year we must continue to argue vigorously for better pay and compensation for our teachers, protections for our most needy children, and better equity for all students in Oklahoma.

We must also remember that education is primarily a people business. New policies and programs will come and GO (think EOI’s and teacher quantitative rating schemes), but human interaction will always remain the fundamental element in teaching our youth.

Here is one of the blessings we share. As educators, we have the unique and special privilege to directly impact the lives of children, every single day. That counts for a lot.

With that said, I want to share one of the more meaningful YouTube videos I watched while finishing the Internet this year.

It is based on a simple premise. The video features teachers from Oak Park High School in Kansas City, Missouri approaching students and expressing their thanks.

Each teacher had been tasked with identifying a specific pupil and telling them they’re the reason they come to work everyday.

It is about the absolute value of positive relationships between teachers and students.

After watching the video, which has since gone viral, it’s clear that gratitude is felt from both ends.

It is a beautiful lesson in appreciation. And it’s a great way to start a new year. I guarantee it will leave you with a smile and maybe a tear or two.

With that, I wish each of you a healthy, happy, and meaningful 2017!

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