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Commentary: Top Ten Best Things about School

By Bernadette Ruof

Buffalo, NY – Books and magazines whose intention it is to improve us, offer the same advice. Be grateful. It is good for the body as well as the spirit. We are advised not just to think a quick thought of thanks but to write a list of the things for which we are grateful at the end of each day. I thought - Ok. I can do that.

So I did it. And I could see that the day, the month, even the year had much more to recommend it than I had originally thought.

So here are ten things about school and life for which I am grateful.

10. Toast and cookies and the cafeteria staff who make them. Many schools are blessed with a cafeteria staff who wants to make school as much like home as possible. We have such a staff. They make homemade chocolate chip cookies. And they also make toast. Every second period the smell of perfect, warm buttery toast, with cinnamon fills the cafeteria. It is one of the highlights of my day.

9. Poetry. When I was in elementary school, we had to memorize Joyce Kilmer's Trees. Not a great poem, but I still remember it. The lines of it came back to me on my walks this summer... "A tree who lifts her leafy arms to pray...and intimately lives with rain." It is a good thing to memorize poetry. For me, having the sounds of a poem in my head during a long line of cars on Main St. is like yoga.

8.A Change in Routine. Instead of driving east, I drive north and then turn back. Instead of pancakes for breakfast, we have pancakes for dinner. When teaching English, sometimes we have class outside under a tree. Change is good.

7. Clipping articles out of newspapersand magazines. You can't believe the things you can find in newspapers and magazines. So when I read them, I read with scissors in hand. I have notebooks full of articles, pictures, great ideas and good words to use in my class. I try to teach students that having a newspaper is something you need in your life. It's the citizen's Bible.

6. Laughter. Do you remember the sound of 30 people laughing with you, because of something you said? When I am the cause of it, it is empowering. A classroom community can unite over many things. One of the best ways is in laughter.

5. Sun in winter skies. My classroom windows face the east and when the sun is in the winter sky, somewhere around 8:30 am, it infuses the class with a hopeful warmth. A light fills the room that tells students and me that we can do this work, we can make it through this day. My ninth graders last year were smiling most days just because of the sun in that room.

4. Great Teachers. I had them. I can conjure up their faces in a moment. Sister Catherine's fiery intelligent eyes, Miss Miklosz's hands when she told stories about the French revolution, Dr. Taylor's wit and patience with me as I learned how to write in his class. I work with great teachers today. And we are all lucky to have them. They look for the best thing about your child daily.

3. Great books. If you haven't found a world that you need in books, then your life is the less for it. The single most important thing that I do each year is to introduce kids to the world of books and help them to navigate their way into that world.

2. The Zone. I learned from my athletic friends and family members what the zone is a place where you are humming, working in such a state that everything is flowing and all your ideas are good ones. It happens in my class sometimes, for me and for my students, and when it does, it is magical. I wish for cameras to record it.

1. The Hope, Honesty and Helpful Nature of Kids. Most of the kids I meet, even the ones who are troubled and needy, have hope for a better time for themselves. Honesty prevails in most of my dealings with kids. I once struggled with a nasty student for a whole year. Later, when I ran into him at a bank where he worked, I said, "I am sorry we had such a tough time together." He said, "You were right to be angry with me. I was awful." You don't find that kind of honesty everywhere. But it happens every day in my world.

Which is why I am grateful to be beginning this year, in school, with my students, my teachers, my parents and my friends.

Listener-Commentator Bernadette Ruof teaches English at Williamsville East High School.

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