Gratitude

I’ve spent the last six weeks in Mindfulness sessions. My mind has been pinging all over the place and I’ve been learning how to find some calmness. Every Wednesday, I’ve sat in a half circle just listening along with about 10 other Paradise educators. I’m grateful to Rosann, our leader who generously volunteered her time and experience to help lead us to some peace. That got me thinking about gratitude. A school year with too many lows, there are just as many highs that are uplifting. I celebrate those that have helped lift us up:

Mary Rose, a friend who is a retired principal, and the local Omega Nu chapter sponsored our 7th graders for a day away from OSH and sent them to see the latest How to Train a Dragon movie with snacks too.

Chris Tebbetts, a co-author of the Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life series with James Patterson, sent me autographed books and an offer to Skype. After we read the book, the 7th graders had a live video conference with him. He was in Vermont, and we were live in the OSH warehouse. Wifi (which we got after 2 months at OSH) has brought us great opportunities!

Holly, a teacher from Connecticut, and her middle school class raised money for our kids and sent me a $300 Amazon gift card.. Our leadership students decided to celebrate positivity. Teachers nominated students for their positive attributes and each morning, our principal reads the nominations during the morning announcements as the leadership students give each student a small plush eagle. We start our days flying like an eagle 🙂

Some days, groups will visit and hand deliver items. Thank you to the quilters from Grass Valley who brought handmade quilts for our students and staff sent from all over the U.S. Thanks to the Girl Scout troop who donated half of their Girl Scout cookie profits for Amazon gift cards and spent time with our 6th graders. We’ve had school kids from Sacramento stop by and kindergartners from across the street bring donuts. What kindness!

At times, it feels a bit like we’re the animals in the zoo as media come by and film us on our aisles conducting school in a warehouse. We’ve seen CBS news, PBS Frontline, and Ron Howard’s documentary crew, to name a few. They are a reminder that people haven’t forgotten the people of Paradise, and are always respectful with our kids.

Chico High School staff has adopted our staff and since January, have brought us treats to lift us up. Along with snacks and coffee, they’ve sent flowers, holiday decor and funny teacher comics. Our friends across town have shared kindness and brought smiles to our faces on many mornings.

And day in, day out, I am amazed by the Paradise people who just don’t quit: our extremely hardworking principals and district administrators who don’t let us down; our colleagues who listen and laugh with us, and our students who keep showing up, even when the days are hard and emotions are overwhelming.

Teaching in a warehouse like OSH can be loud, but what has gone quiet for me has been my keyboard, my pen, left silent by the thoughts pressed tightly in the back of my mind. Recently I’ve lost both my mother-in-law and my own mom, the one who always cheered me on. My daughters have lost both their grandmas within a month and a day. Loss has been steep and at times, it’s just too much. There have been many days when I’ve preferred the echoes in the warehouse. But if I take time to be mindful and let the quiet in, I can see the human kindness that surrounds us all. For that, I am grateful.

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Author: Erica Blaschke

I am a middle school English and technology teacher from Chico, CA and have traveled the Skyway to teach in Paradise for the past 16 years. A fast moving wildfire changed the lives of our entire community on November 8th when the #campfire destroyed the town. We are now redefining what school and learning can be as we start over, unable to return.

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