Feeling thankful for my students

I held classes on Wednesday. At our community college, we’re on a quarter system and only have ten weeks or so per course, and in a writing class, that’s never enough, so we need to use all the days we can. Of course, the day before Thanksgiving, many of my students understandably take off to visit family or prepare to receive family for the holiday, and I never penalize them for doing so. But this year, I decided to reward the dozen or so students who did show up for class: I offered them extra credit for writing what they’re thankful for, and they agreed to share their words here on my blog.

I won’t share everything from every student, but I would like to share a few of the full responses, from two different classes. And I would like to add that I am deeply grateful for all my students. Without them, I would just be in a room talking to myself (which I do plenty of already); but because these people decided to enroll in college and try their hands at writing, I get to join them in the classroom each week as we all pursue this adventure of education together. I learn so much from my students, and I am grateful each day we hold class, even — or especially — when it’s so near a holiday.

“Lessons from an Asparagus, by Delaney A.

When I think of the word “thankfulness,” a little tune emerges from the fog of my distant memory. When I was a child, one of my favorite movie series was VeggiTales. In each short, animated film, anthropomorphic vegetables (like Larry the Cucumber and Bob the Tomato) used humor and skits to tell Bible stories and teach life lessons. One of my favorite movies in the series centers on the theme of thankfulness. In the story, the French fruit Madame Blueberry buys up every gizmo and doodad from the local mall, because she’s “so blue she [doesn’t] know what to do.” But after her house literally explodes as a result of all her purchases, she realizes that possessions are not the most important thing in life, and that more stuff does not equal more happiness. She already had so much to be thankful for. At the end of the movie, her little friend Junior Asparagus sings, “A thankful heart is a happy heart, I’m glad for what I have, that’s an easy way to start. For the love that [God] shares as He listens to my prayers, that’s why say thanks every day.”

One thing that I am thankful for, something that makes my heart happy, is the encouragement of imagination from my parents during my childhood. After watching skits on VeggiTales, my sisters and I would run along and create our own stories. My childhood days were filled with playing pretend. I picked the dry grass from our dusty, southern Oregon yard, imagining that it was wheat and I was a pioneer baking bread for my hungry family. I loaded my Bitty Baby doll into a pink, plastic stroller and took her for a walk around the house. I spread my arms and ran in circles across the green living room carpet, pretending I was a jet plane soaring over fields of crops.

While my sisters and I spent our childhood days playing and imagining, my parents were always right there beside us, fostering our creativity. When my sisters and I decided to dress up in gowns and fancy hats and have a tea party in the front room, my mom used cookie cutters to shape cheese, lunch meat, and cucumber slices into flower-shaped finger sandwiches. Another time, my sisters and I spent an entire day putting the details together for a full Barbie wedding; we picked and named the bride and groom, selected a preacher, dressed the bridesmaids and groomsmen, filled the audience, and decorated the aisle and stage. When we begged our parents to attend the grand event, they willingly seated themselves on the daybed in our playroom and watched as we used our dolls to conduct the ceremony. And when my dad came home for his lunch break, he would fall to his hands and knees, seat us high atop his back, and then neigh and puff as he trotted us cowgirls around the house.

Although some of my love for imagination may have come from a show like VeggiTales, the majority of it is due to my parents. They let us play, imagine, and create, and then encouraged the art, plays, and stories that we created. To this day, I still make constant use of my seasoned imagination, through writing, acting, and music. And my parents continue to encourage my creativity by reading my stories and papers, watching my plays and skits, and listening to my music. Like Junior Asparagus sang, thankfulness for their support of my imagination, gives me a happy heart.


“Thankful,” by Salim H.

Throughout this time of year we see long posts of Facebook of what people are thankful for. Or you get the typical twenty-five days of thankfulness posts too; you get hashtags, Instagram photos, etc . . . . I personally think this is like Game of Thrones’s “winter is coming,” but instead it’s Thanksgiving so let me tell the world, if they don’t already know, how thankful I am. But after this it only gets more dramatic than an episode of Days of Our Lives. Because as soon as that’s done, everybody does the same thing just on a super-jumbo-larger scale for Christmas. Most people are thankful for the typical things, like grandma’s homemade cookies, or their big brother who’s pain, but it’s his pain in the butt and nobody else’s. But people forget about the small things that they’re thankful for, so here’s my thanks for the small things in my life:

I’m thankful for every time I plug in my charger chord and it’s not too short and it charges my phone. I’m thankful for each time I pick up a piece of paper and I don’t get those annoying paper cuts. I’m thankful for never working at a Friday’s on a Friday and never getting off on time on a Friday because it’s busy every Friday. I’m thankful for my student ID that I use everywhere to get discounts. I’m thankful for the annoying neighbor who has a rooster that never crows at the first sight of sunlight but crows at 3:30 am every morning; thank you, Steve the Rooster, for your free alarm to the neighborhood.

I’m thankful for good gas mileage on my car so even if I’m at a quarter of a tank I can still go about two weeks before filling up. Those are just the small things I’m thankful for, but I guess I’ll shed some light on some major things that I am thankful for.

I’m thankful for living in a neighborhood that doesn’t have drive-by shootings or gangs on every block or every corner. That way, if I feel like walking to school, I don’t worry about being bothered. I’m thankful also for living in a neighborhood where I can walk to the library, which is open seven days week. I’m thankful for the little kids in my neighborhood that look up to me, because they’re the extra push I need when I think about giving up. I’m thankful for living behind a college — waking up and seeing it every morning makes me realize that my dreams are really close to me, and not out of reach. I’m thankful that my neighborhood hasn’t had any gentrification. I’m thankful for the hand-me-down clothes I’ve received throughout the years. I’m thankful I live in a country that doesn’t have a war at its front door. I’m thankful that I live in a house rather than in a hut, even though I live in a house that has busted pipes almost every winter and no insulation, that has no heat or a/c and the kitchen lights don’t work, and there’s big hole in the wall that we cover up with a cut-up black garbage bag.

Most importantly, I’m thankful for my family: I’m thankful for my Mom for always feeding me to death, even when I just come back from dinner with a friend. I’m thankful for my Dad for not only breaking the stereotype that is placed on black men but for also teaching me my history that wasn’t really ever taught in school. And if it was, it was on the shortest month of the year and just really a cookie-cutter version of what they thought I wanted to learn. I’m thankful for both my parents for teaching me how to dress and buy three-piece suits, for teaching me chivalry, how to pick out flowers and open doors for women when in this day in age that it’s frowned upon or forgotten. I’m thankful for the enormous closet full of books that they had me read every summer and give book reports. I’m thankful for them always giving me their last when they could have given me only just half.

Moving on down the chain I’m thankful for my five brothers and two sisters. Even though I’m the middle child, I am a proud middle child. I’m thankful for all you being my cooks, cleaners, movie credits, fashion consultation, taxi, and vice versa.

Even though I could go and on (and I wish I could, but class is almost over), I must print this out. But I want to give one last special thank you . . . . Thank you Dr. Snoek-Brown for making me fall back in love with writing when I didn’t think I could.

“I’m Thankful,” by Morgan Y.

I’m thankful for what I am grown to understand. A year ago, I thought I knew what was going on in the world, whether it was in my country or another. Since then, I have learned that I was dead wrong. I’m thankful that I have learned to understand that not everything is better for everyone and that I can help change the world for the better. I know that this doesn’t sound like a very Thanksgiving-type of thankful, but I have never felt lighter, knowing that people are more awake than ever, including myself.

“I Am Thankful,” by Claudia O.

I am thankful for being able to share another Thanksgiving with my parents and my family. When I was growing up, my parents always prepared me for the day they wouldn’t be with me anymore, because they had me at an old age, and as we know, as we grow older, illnesses start to build up. This only made me cherish every holiday I got to spend with my parents even more. My uncle died this past September, and his kids no longer have both their parents to spend Thanksgiving, or any other holiday, with. I think that sometimes we take such important people for granted; we don’t think about a day they won’t be there. My family means a lot to me and they’re not always able to all get together. So on this Thanksgiving, I’m thankful we all can get together after going through so much.


Published by Samuel Snoek-Brown

I write fiction and teach college writing and literature. I'm the author of the story collection There Is No Other Way to Worship Them, the novel Hagridden, and the flash fiction chapbooks Box Cutters and Where There Is Ruin.

One thought on “Feeling thankful for my students

  1. Me? For hanging on to a thread of sanity, and for hanging on to a thread of creativity. Also that I can tell a nine bob note* when I see one.

    [*That’s our equivalent of a wooden nickel.]

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