This is the time of year when we are able to reflect on what we are grateful for. I, for one, am eternally grateful for my amazing and supportive spouse, without whom I would not be be writing this blog. I am also grateful for my wonderful family and my adorably sweet dog. I am grateful for my job, my quirky and strong coworkers and, last but not least, my outstanding students! Gratitude is a beautiful thing that shines a light and brings our focus to all of the good that surrounds us (even when it appears that we are only surrounded by muck). So, how do we teach our students to be grateful?
Lead by example. In the 90s, Oprah made famous the idea of the ‘gratitude journal’ (a daily log of the things are grateful for). I tend to do this verbally during my classes as an informal oral journal of gratitude. I think that by demonstrating gratitude in a casual way, it makes it more accessible. Gratitude does not need to be some huge epiphany or grand gesture (it can, but it doesn’t have to be); gratitude can merely be saying an ernest thank-you to someone who holds the door open for you or does some small act of kindness.
Share others’ stories. There are so many beautiful stories out there that demonstrate how to be grateful for what you have, even in the most dire of circumstances (like this beautiful story that gets me, and my students, every time). By sharing these touching stories, the students are able to see that no matter what is happening in their life, they have a choice to focus on the good. Even though we cannot control most of what happens to us, we can control how we respond to it. What a powerful way to look at the world.
Do for others. I will never forget the first time I ever served food at a soup kitchen–seeing the people, the families, there who were in need of a hot meal was overwhelming. I think I had the same image in my mind that a lot of ignorant people have, but that image was shattered when I saw the faces of elderly people, young people, women and children. In that moment, I felt deep gratitude for the things in my life. It may not be possible to take your students to a local shelter, but you can help to make them aware of ways in which they can give back. Ask them to help you help others and pick a group in need in your local community (elderly, animals, homelessness, etc); have them do research and learn more about the cause–through this, they should gain gratitude for their own life and what they have (even if it’s meager).
I know this week’s post was short, but I hope that it filled you with your own thoughts of gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving!
-The Ardent Teacher