How We Almost Lost Thanksgiving (and the Superwoman Who Saved It)

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visit bookandbliss.comI found a new book yesterday—it has been in my classroom for years, unnoticed!  (To be VERY honest, I thought it was a book about Betsy Ross and the American flag; apparently, I didn’t even read the title).  But on the last school day before Thanksgiving I wanted to read a Thanksgiving story to my students. I flipped through my holiday books, and there it was: Thank You, Sarah by Laurie Halse Anderson.

It is a great feeling, reading a book for the first time, not to mention reading it out loud to a gaggle of 8 year olds. I never know how they are going to react to a story—with interest, disinterest, giggles, or insight, or a mix of it all.

They loved this book. And I was shocked that I owned it all this time and was only just discovering it.

I loved sharing with my group of bright-eyed chatterboxes the story of Sarah Hale, a “dainty little lady” born in 1788. The list of things she accomplished in her lifetime is phenomenal. Makes me tired just thinking about it!  Here are a few:

  • Wrote and published novels and children’s books
  • Edited the Ladies’ Magazine (which published works by some of the most famous authors of her time, such as Poe, Hawthorne, Stowe, Longfellow, and Dickens)
  • Raised five children
  • Wrote Mary Had A Little Lamb
  • Advocated for schools for girls and opposed slavery
  • By night, she made hats and wrote thousands of letters

I’ve been trying to teach my class this year how to take action and not wait for someone else to solve their problems. It’s been an ongoing struggle—as I read this book to them, I could tell they were digesting the idea of a “bold, brave, stubborn, and smart” person who had an idea and worked hard to bring it about.

Because this dainty little lady loved Thanksgiving. And  it was being forgotten by a lot of Americans, especially in the new states forming in the West. What did she do? Sarah Hale picked up her pen. She wrote letters by the thousands, urging support to make Thanksgiving a nationally recognized holiday. Imagine, the ENTIRE country celebrating and giving thanks on the same day. For a country embroiled in a civil war, we needed a little more coming together and a little less falling apart. Sarah appealed to FIVE consecutive presidents of the United States (that is some stubborn waiting!) before Abraham Lincoln made our Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, thirty-eight years after Sarah began her quest. I want the girls and guys in my class to have heroes like this lady.

This book was a great find, just at the right moment too. The illustrations are witty and fun, and the story is inspiring.

In the spirit of giving thanks, here are the things that have been on my mind:

  • I am grateful that my husband doesn’t get annoyed when I read the Kindle over his shoulder (currently “we” are reading Catching Fire). You know how food tastes better when it is snitched from someone else’s meal? It just might be the same with books.
  • I give thanks for a break from the children, so I can go back with renewed energy and patience.
  • I give thanks for cinnamon & hibiscus herbal tea with cream.
  • I give thanks for family.
  • I give thanks for the beautiful DIY wreath made of ribbons that one of my students made for me. It is the first decoration to go up! Many more to follow.
  • I am grateful that I am not sick with a cold or fever! Bring on the holidays.

What are YOU thankful for?

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Just Keep Learning

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This is my fourth year of teaching; the thing I feel most is relief and steadiness because I have my sea legs. Now I am looking around, figuring out where the ship is going. It took a lot of work and stumbling around for the first few years!

Do problems come up? Only every day. But I am becoming more comfortable with the structure and the pacing and the flow of it all. I still work hard to find my balance—and maintain my balance.

Looking back, I am astounded at the opportunities to grow that have heaped themselves at my feet. In a school setting, we are thrown into close quarters with a specific group of people. Some bring out the best in us, and some bring out the dragons. Kids, parents, coworkers—they all take their piece of you or build a place with you. As hard as that process is, I wouldn’t trade it for anything less demanding.

Looking ahead, there is still so much to learn—I went to a class hosted by a local university about integrating agriculture into science lessons (growing pumpkins and such) and I sat down next to MY 3rd grade teacher. To her credit she hasn’t aged a day (teaching must be good for the skin . . . ). There she was after 20 years, the teacher that heavily influenced me to become what I am now. If anyone could sit back and feel confident that they have this teaching thing down, go home, and watch old episodes of Downton, it would be her. But no, her first thought was to take another class. Learn something new. Shake things up and re-write her plans to include terrariums and seed packets. She is still inspiring me.