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Happy and healthy

I asked my students to make lists of things for which they were thankful this year, then we spent some time talking about and sharing their lists on Wednesday.

Some were quite creative. One student included me on her digital list, but she typed my name in white so that I would not see it unless she wanted me to see it.

Another included a photo of a different Matthew Dicks – younger and better looking than me – on their list and asked what happen to me.

Clever children. Rotten, too.

This “thankful list” is something I’ve asked students to do for many years.

Here’s a difference that I noticed this year compared to previous years:

So many of my students included the health of themselves and their families on their lists this year. Many mentioned how thankful they are to still have living grandparents. Quite a few were thankful that COVID-19 had not touched their family directly.

A surprising number were thankful to simply be alive.

In prior years, things like health were simply assumed. Living grandparents were a given. Being alive was something never worth mentioning.

But this generation of children has lived through a lot. The pandemic has undoubtedly taken its toll. Any school administrator or teacher who thinks that we can relax our concern for the social and emotional wellbeing of these kids and return to pre-pandemic levels is making a terrible mistake.

This is a generation of children who will be living with the effects of the pandemic for a long, long time. They need as much support and love as we can muster every damn day. They need to feel safe and laugh a lot.

I like to think that living through this pandemic will make them stronger, wiser, and more appreciative for all of our blessings. I’m hoping that it will offer them greater perspective and a more nuanced outlook on the future.

But I suspect it’s also caused damage that will echo through their lives for decades. I hope not, but I think it’s likely.

Either way, I’m going to lean into the wisdom of my students and be especially thankful for our health this year. I’m still recovering from surgery and suffering some unexpected, very frustrating complications, but overall, I’m doing just fine. Slowly returning to my “healthy as a horse” status.

Elysha and several of my friends have battled COVID-19 during the pandemic, including some recent breakthrough cases, but all have thankfully survived and are back on their feet.

Clara and Charlie are healthy and happy.

My students have also been healthy and happy. My colleagues, too. We work in masks, keep as much distance from one another as possible, limit the spaces we travel inside of the school for contact tracing purposes, and continue to avoid things like assemblies and some field trips. Kids and staff are still quarantined when necessary, and many meetings still happen virtually, but learning continues. We work hard, laugh a whole bunch, and kids are receiving the support they need.

Health and life. That’s what so many of my students are grateful for this year, and so am I.

I hope you’re enjoying the same.

I’ll also add that this is often a hard time of year for those who have suffered loss. As friends and families gather, empty places at the table can make the holidays a little less festive and sometimes downright hard on many folks.

I understand this all too well.

Watch for those who might be silently suffering at this time of year. Encase them in warmth and love.