By Van Schoales
Thanksgiving couldn’t come at a better time this year. With conflict and violence on the rise around the globe, it provides a rare time to bring family, neighbors and friends together to cook, talk and hang out. And there are no gifts! It’s my favorite holiday.
We will gather part of our tribe in Los Angeles where we will share turkey, Mama Stamberg’s cranberry relish, tahdig (Persian rice) and a dozen other dishes. Our Thanksgiving menu is reflective of our family and neighbors which includes recent immigrants from Iran, India, and others from Ireland and Greece several generations back. It’s a very American table, some traditional dishes made better with foods from distant lands.
While the food at Thanksgiving is critical, it’s the people and conversations that make for a great day. Catching up with those we have not seen for some time, welcoming new folks to the table, all combined with a few debates (maybe some heated over politics or family). It’s about a series of engaging conversations that include lots of listening, questions, and making connections to culture, politics, and our lives. And yes have an argument or two, maybe some angst with your brother and some good gossip.
For me, a great Thanksgiving is what a great school should be—a place where kids and adults of all ages gather to joyfully (most of the time) learn from one another through questions and reflection. I look forward to the discussions we will have on ecology with my birding father, and on the complex politics of Iran with my brother in-law’s family.
Too often our schools are dingy prison-like buildings with industrial food where adults and kids march through uninspired classes with little or no time to go deeply into anything. We spend far too little time getting to know kids, teachers, or families, or have deeper conversations about those things that matter to kids and adults.
Maybe in addition to Common Core, PARCC, and “Teaching like a Champion,” we should apply some lessons from a great Thanksgiving to take time to know students and their families better, and to engage them in meaningful conversations which have consequence. Have a great Thanksgiving, and may your conversation be as rich as the pecan pie (though I prefer pumpkin).