Have you ever worked at a place where people had genuine (not coffee-induced) smiles in the mornings? Where people asked about your weekend and really listened instead of bemoaning another Monday? If you have, isn’t that what you want in your classroom for your students? If you haven’t, wouldn’t you like to make that part of your life? Think gratitude.
We can’t control everything, but we can provide a direction for our classes. I’m known for being very cheery on Monday mornings. Students groan when I enthusiastically greet them and wish them a happy Monday, but they smile, too. What if I took it further?
I realized today that September 21st is National Gratitude Day, and I’m not going to wait until then to dive right into this gratitude project. I often take the time to reflect with gratitude on what I have, and this keeps me going when life isn’t so sunny. I’ve realized it would be so much more inspiring to participate in shared gratitude exercises with the people I spend the most time with—my students.
First, embody gratitude.
When I taught in a kindergarten immersion, I talked out loud to myself ALL THE TIME. My kids learned so much more English by listening to my thought processes than they ever would have if I kept that to myself. Why have I been keeping my gratitude to myself? Starting tomorrow, I am going to use the following words out loud as much as possible: glad, thankful, grateful, appreciative, and other forms of those words. I’m going to direct my gratitude towards my students, towards the day itself, and towards my life in general. I’m going to be thankful for silly things, big things, and things that might make me tear up a bit.
Second, invite gratitude.
My favorite response to students’ questions is always, “What do you think?” Whether it’s how to spell the word, how they should answer a question on an assignment, or why they should work together, I’d much rather they tell me than I tell them.
Likewise, I don’t want one-sided shared experiences of gratitude where I dance around like Mary Poppins and birds break into song. I want them to join in, but they might not know how, might not feel welcome to, and might not know what to be grateful for. So, I will come right out and ask them! We’ll start with silly things because that’s likely to be easier.
“Good morning class! I’m so thankful that I remembered to go to the store yesterday so that I didn’t have to eat leftover pasta for breakfast. Again. What are you thankful for?”
Later in the afternoon, it can be “I’m so thankful to have had all of you in class. I loved getting to know each of you better. What did we do in class that you are the most thankful for?” (Wednesday is the last day of the term; a new one starts the following Monday, but I see no reason to make gratitude wait.)
Third, take mental notes.
What your students are thankful for will give you insights into their ideals and their hopes. This is valuable information you can use when counseling them, when creating meaningful assignments for them, and to know what and how to ask them about their gratitude each day. Tailoring gratitude questions towards students instead of always asking everyone the same thing in the same way shows you listened and that you care. I anticipate my students learning from my example and asking each other gratitude questions as the weeks go by.
Thinking about spending the next term sharing gratitude like this is exciting, and I can’t wait to try it! I hope you will as well. I’d love to know what happens with your students. I’m grateful to be at a point in my life where I can focus on gratitude. I can’t wait to create a shared gratitude experience for my students.
Interested in doing reflective writing? You’ll want to read Finding out their DARKEST secrets and BIGGEST triumphs.