In 2016, Kristian Spencer, a seventh grade science teacher at Wylie Junior High, reflected on this quote when she was pondering how to cultivate a “spirit of thankfulness” for her campus. From this inspiration came a school-wide activity that brought the students and faculty members together to create a chain built with links of what each person was thankful about.
Fast forward to today and you will see the Thanksgiving Chain proudly displayed at Wylie East Junior High (WEJH), where Spencer is now the LEAD teacher and spearhead of what has now become a favorite tradition for students and staff. “My hope through the Thanksgiving Chain is we are transforming common days into thanksgiving, turning our routine jobs into joy, and changing our ordinary opportunities into blessings as the halls of Wylie East Junior High become covered with thankfulness,” said Spencer.
Principal Rob Goodenough said while the activity began when Wylie had one junior high campus, the objective of the activity isn’t something that should be limited.
“We continued the activity at Wylie East Junior High because it is an amazing tradition to honor and appreciate all of the things in our lives we are thankful for,” said Goodenough. “I didn’t feel like it belonged to Wylie Junior High as thankfulness cannot be contained by one campus.”
During the first three Tuesdays in November, students from sixth through eighth grades complete the statement “I am thankful for…”, which is printed on a paper chain link. Then, the eighth grade students in Spencer’s LEAD classes begin to assemble the chain. Goodenough said the goal is to string the chain from one end of the main hallway to the other. The Thankfulness remains displayed through December.
Kenley Collier, Kaden Copeland, and Blake Frailing, who are part of a LEAD class responsible for stapling the approximately 1600 links together, believe the Thanksgiving Chain brings the school closer together.
Collier said the chain gives everyone an opportunity to learn about their fellow peers. “It’s important to know what is important to others,” said Collier. “Students are more likely to write it on a paper link than to say it. You also see that you have similarities.”
When Copeland reflected on being responsible for constructing the chain, he felt there was more to it. “It’s not just stapling it together,” he said. “It’s seeing what people value in their lives and day-to-day things. I think knowing what others are thankful for makes you think about what you are thankful for.”
Frailing added that the chain represents a bond within the students and staff and each person represents a link in the chain. “It’s one big chain, and if one breaks, we can all work together to rejoin it,” he said.
When given the opportunity to discuss what each of them are thankful for, family and friends were at the top of the list. Copeland said he was thankful for his grandparents, too. “They are always there to help,” he said.
Collier said family is very important to her, especially her mom because she is her “number one supporter.” She also added that she’s thankful for opportunities she’s been given. “I am thankful God has given me opportunities, like playing sports, as a way to encourage others,” she said.
Mr. Goodenough said the chain is an opportunity for the students and staff to be reminded of blessings as they go about their day. “As we walk under it, we are continuously reminded of the wonderful things in our lives and at our school that make our lives so much better,” said Goodenough. “It is one of our very best Wylie East Junior High traditions.”
No doubt an activity that allows students and staff time to slow down to consider what each has been given or noting even the simplest reasons to be thankful is always good, but an activity that also allows each to reflect on what others are thankful for is even better.
Frailing said it well, “It’s not just about you and what you are thankful for. It is about everyone.”
By Kristen Johnson