For the first time, Glendale schools will be closed the whole week of Thanksgiving. Because of the large amount of time school will be out of session I wanted my students to write about what they are thankful for (what a clichéd assignment, right?).
More importantly, I wanted to share some of their responses to serve as a kind of public service announcement — that many teenagers are decent people. Too often this age group is stereotyped as shallow, materialistic and narcissistic, more interested in texting than talking. However, this doesn't describe several of the young people I have known over the years.
When looking over their papers, three areas in particular were the most popular: family, friends and education.
"I'm thankful for all the teachers who have given up their time to a stranger in order to make them more knowledgeable. They have taught me most of what I know today and have always stuck by me during the journey."
"I am thankful for books. When I first moved to California, I didn't know a single word in English. But soon I started to read and I was inspired. That is the reason why I want to major in English."
"There are so many kids out in the world who are dying to learn and yet here we sit at school every day with a free education. We are privileged that we can become anything we want to; education is our superhero."
"I am very grateful to have rights as a woman because in many countries like Iran and Afghanistan women have almost no rights. They cannot vote or do a lot of the things that women in the U.S. can do. I am looking forward to voting on my first ballot."
"I'm thankful for my friends because even though I have lost some due to arguments, deep down they still left an impression on me that will never go away. They are my second family."
"I want to grow up to be a strong, educated woman who helps people and does what's right. School has taught me so much, and even though I complain about doing homework and studying, I wouldn't be one-fourth as wise as I am right now without it."
"I am so grateful to be able to eat three meals a day and have clean water to drink. I know that many people take this for granted, but many people don't have these things. I see them on the news and it absolutely breaks my heart."
"I am thankful for my health. When I see people with disabilities, I feel very sad to the point where I would trade places with them for a certain time just so they could experience what it feels like to be fully healthy."
"I am grateful for my grandma because she is the most giving person I have ever met. She gave all her assets to my family when we didn't have enough money to pay bills."
"I'm thankful for God because no matter how many times I may mess up, He forgives me and gives me unconditional love."
"I am thankful for my late sister. That experience helped me grow and mature at a young age, and has given me something and someone to fight for. She has made me realize that I must make her proud."
And I am thankful I have had an opportunity to share nearly a quarter of century of my life with young people who are evolving into decent, upright citizens of the world.
BRIAN CROSBY is a English and Journalism teacher at Hoover High. He is the author of Smart Kids, Dumb Schools and The $100,000 Teacher. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.