Gratitude in the Classroom

Grinch Cartoon

As the holiday season is approaching, our to-do lists are getting longer and it seems like the stress of it all can become overwhelming.  I have found that over the last several years, it is hard to get into the spirit of the season.  I’m not sure what has changed, but my husband now affectionately refers to me as “Grinch”  or “Ebenezer” whenever the topic comes up. Ordinarily, this might upset me, but I know he is right! Don’t ever tell him I said that…

I was thinking that this year is THE YEAR where that is going to change.  Maybe I can harness my dislike for the holidays, and turn it into something productive.  I started on my journey by doing a Google search for “how to not be a grinch”.  Oddly enough, in the results I saw a clear theme emerging from the articles and pages.  Gratitude!  It is such a simple concept, but in the day-to-day grind of teaching and having a family, it was lost on me.  I wanted to find some small tweaks that I can add to my day that don’t feel like work, but can improve my own mindset.  Maybe it would help you too!

Gratitude is a topic that is spoken and written about frequently, so I wanted to find information that was specifically for educators.  I found a Ted Talk by Dr. Kerry Howells that discusses gratitude in the classroom.  If you have a few minutes to listen to this, it was a really powerful message about the power of thanking.

Dr. Kerry Howells “How thanking awakens our thinking”

I am Grateful

Dr. Howells said something that struck me because of the current situation we are in as educators.  It is easy to be grateful when things at home or at work are good, what about maintaining that through difficult times?  How can that possibly work?  She says that it is not productive to put a positive wrap on a negative situation, but to be thankful for people, things, or places that are there for us to help us build resilience and grit.  To translate that into the classroom, students will reach their fullest potential in places that they feel valued and have a sense of trust.  Dr. Kerry Howells gives us 30 reasons to practice gratitude during adversity. If you have been feeling like me, check out the list to see if any of those reasons resonate with you.

According to Sherri Walker in the article “11 Classroom Activities to Teach Students Gratitude”, when teaching gratitude to students they are more optimistic, feel more satisfied with life, and are less negative.  

There are a couple of strategies that are very easy and effective to implement in the classroom.  It does not have to feel like one more thing, but just a part of daily or weekly practice.

  • Model Gratitude: 
    • The most powerful tool teachers have to help them teach gratitude is modeling. Teachers should express gratitude to and in front of students. When students see adults thanking other people, they are more likely to do the same.
  • Gratitude Journal: 
    • Have students write in their class notebook or a dedicated journal what they are grateful for on a daily or weekly basis.
  • Gratitude Jar:
    • Create a practice of having students jot down what they are grateful for and putting in a jar in the classroom.  Read a few gratitude statements at the end of class or transition times.
  • Serve Others: 
    • When we serve others, we feel good about ourselves. Service doesn’t have to be complex, it can be something simple. Simple acts of kindness can show how to make a difference with others and how people make a difference for us.

I am going to take a few minutes each day to write down what I am grateful for and experiment if it changes my mindset.  I’ll let you know if my nickname changes from “Grinch” to “Cindy Lou Who” after embracing gratitude.

Cindy Lou Who Gif

Gratitude can make a difference in the perception of our happiness.  What do you do to express gratitude?  What makes you feel grateful?  Please join in the conversation by tagging us @KaneCountyROE.

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