Education Matters: Plenty to be grateful for

Editor's Note: Numerous instances of plagiarism have been discovered in Dan Kimber’s “Education Matters” column, which ran in the News- Press from September 2003 to September 2011. In those columns where plagiarism has been found, a For the Record specifying the details will be appended to the piece.

Autumn has arrived, and it is definitely my favorite time of the year. There is a wonderful nip in the air that signals the end of dry months and oppressive heat. It's the beginning of a dormant time for all things to rest for awhile — except humans.

We go on and on. But even we are asked to sit back and take a moment to reflect, to review our labors and celebrate what is completed before spring starts the process all over again. It's a time of thanksgiving.

In that spirit, I've put together a modest list this year with a few provisos attached. I'm usually a glass-half-full kind of guy, but I also believe that gratitude can easily be confused with complacency. And so:

I'm grateful for teachers unions protecting members' rights and fighting for fair wages. The history of our country testifies to the need of workers to organize for their basic rights and protection. When those organizations stray from that purpose, however, and attempt to wield political power, they are no different from the giant corporations that exert unwarranted influence in our political process.

I'm grateful for the teachers in my life who took me aside to explain or listen or praise — teachers who regularly made time for me, just for me, and managed to do the same for all of their students. They were my favorite teachers when I was young, my most respected colleagues when I was older, and, addressing the present preoccupation with good/bad teaching, solid-gold additions to any faculty.

I'm grateful that a growing awareness has turned into a growing commitment throughout the world to tend more carefully to the health of our planet. I am mystified that it has become a politically polarizing issue.

I'm grateful that the word "green" is being used more often with an emphasis on clean energy. When the day comes, like 20 or 30 years down the road, that Earth is unable to disgorge any more oil, people will look back and assess what we did in preparation for that inevitable day.

I'm grateful for the visionaries who are concerned with those future generations and contemptuous of all others who place a premium on their present comfort and their short-term profits over the well being of our children.

I'm grateful that our communities continue to be desirable places to live, but I'm also wary of large developments proposed on remaining open land (like say, for example, Verdugo Hills Golf Course). We should all be thankful for the good folks who volunteer their time fighting to keep our communities desirable places to live.

I'm grateful that parents are waking up to the fact that there is an obesity epidemic in this country, but I realize at the same time that many families who dine regularly at places like McDonalds and Taco Bell think that they're getting a balanced meal.

I'm grateful to my nonconformist colleagues who refuse to put standardized braces on their teaching even while more and more administrators seek to make all teaching "data driven."

I'm grateful for parents who take their role seriously, including being actively involved in their children's education. I'll never understand people who choose to have children and then delegate their upbringing to others.

I'm thankful for the optimists for reminding me that all things are possible, and I appreciate the pragmatists for providing a balance in my life.

I'm thankful for the romantics, for they keep our dreams alive, and I'm thankful for the realists who help me keep my feet on the ground.

I'm thankful for all of the religions on the face of this Earth. Their mere existence tells me that we humans, in our limited capacity, are all trying to know God, each of us with our own fragments of understanding, each of us on separate paths, but all leading to the same place.

The original Thanksgiving was a celebration of abundance made more meaningful by memories of scarcity and hardship only a year before.

We tell and retell the Pilgrims' story to carry forward the spirit of that celebration, and we do this in the hope that each Thanksgiving we will open our hearts and our minds, even if only for the day, and appreciate the miracle of our existence.

I find it most comforting that in the midst of all the bad news that barrages and encircles us, we make a point of celebrating and expressing gratitude for the good that is in our lives as well.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

DAN KIMBER taught in the Glendale Unified School District for more than 30 years. He may be reached at

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