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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Teaching Gratitude

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Now that it’s November, most minds in the United States are turning to Thanksgiving, even if malls across America are trying to skip it straight for Christmas. Since this time of year is so much about giving thanks, one of the things we as teachers can do is to teach our students the importance of expressing thanks and gratitude.

According to this research study https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022440507000386?np=y expressing gratitude simply in the form of counting blessings “seems to be an effective intervention for well-being enhancement.” Many people seem to suggest the idea of keeping some form of Gratitude Journal will help you increase your social-emotional health.

What things have you done with your students to help them develop gratitude and share it with others?

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

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Don Doehla, MA, NBCT's picture
Don Doehla, MA, NBCT
2015 California Language Teacher of the Year, Co-Director Berkeley WL Project at UC Berkeley Language Center

What a great post!

We all do well to focus on the positive far more often than the challenges we face each day. I like to think of what I have to be thankful for each day - it helps me deal with my chronic physical pain. It also reminds me to encourage students to look for the positive as well. There are a lot of students in difficulty, dealing with things like homelessness, drugs, family problems... I can't always help, but I can express appreciation for the unique qualities and contributions of each student as often as I can. It can be hard at times, but a little kindness can make all the difference for a student in need of a gentle word, a compliment, or a simple, "I am happy to see you today, and thankful for you."

And thank you, Dan, for the reminder to spread random words of thanks to others!

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

I think we have to model this for kids daily, at home and at school. It can really change a classroom dynamic when kids feel they are welcome and it's a place of growth and appreciation, rather than a critique den. We need to talk more explicitly to everyone- kids, parents teachers, admins- everyone- about how to make learning more like experimentation, where failure is accepted as a part of the learning, and even non-perfect results have something for reflection, appreciation and gratitude as part of the process. I know I have to remind myself of this when I get into one of "those" discussions about, say, editing a paper with my sons, and find a way to speak to them where we both walk away grateful rather than resentful for the help, and that the help is delivered in a way that builds up rather than tears down. That's a big challenge sometimes.

Becky Fisher's picture
Becky Fisher
Education Consultant

I've noticed that some people list what they're grateful for on or around Thanksgiving, but what if that were a once a week occurrence throughout the year? When expressing gratitude, students realize how much they have to be thankful for, even if they think they don't. I can imagine that a Monday morning journal-writing activity would boost moods for the day and maybe even for the week. Students could make a list, write a story, or even draw a picture about what they feel they are grateful for.

It's important to focus on the good - the power of positive thinking is a strong force!

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Manager

On Twitter, Kristen SV (@k_smithvazquez) recommended making it gratitude a part of one's daily routine. She says it makes for "a more peaceful mind."

That got me thinking--what about gratitude as part of a morning meeting...what better way to frame the rest of the day?

Lisa, what do you think? You wrote a blog post about the power of morning meetings.

Dan Callahan's picture
Dan Callahan
Professional Learning Specialist, Edcamper, Graduate Professor

I'm a big fan of morning meeting, but for some reason, gratitude feels even better to me as an end of the day meeting kind of thing. Nice way to summarize the day.

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program

I love all of these ideas! In our mindfulness work, we try to help teachers stop and notice things- it's part of learning to be present in the moment. I think the first step towards gratitude is learning to really see what's around us. For example, I"m sitting in an AWFUL hotel room right now (seriously icky) but if I take a moment to just *see,* I can notice that the dresser is the exact shade of the Granny Smith apples my daughter loves. Thinking of the apples- and of her- leads me to think about how lucky I am to be her mom.

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Manager

I can see how teaching mindfulness can lead to teaching gratitude. The two are connected, aren't they?

Youki Terada's picture
Youki Terada
Senior Associate, Research Curation

Samer said: "I can see how teaching mindfulness can lead to teaching gratitude. The two are connected, aren't they?"

Definitely agree! When we visited Glenview Elementary (which is featured in our SEL video: http://www.edutopia.org/keys-social-emotional-learning-video), mindfulness, morning circles, and gratitude all complemented each other. I love Lisa's blog post on morning meetings, because I think it's really all about setting the tone for your students.

The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley has a great resource page on gratitude:

Alice.Ava's picture
Learner, Laugher, Highfiver of Imagination

Each morning, I drink a glass of water, take a walk and jot down three things I'm thankful for, three things that would make the day great and a few other things. Got the idea from a fascinating interview on gratitude (among other things) heard on the Bulletproof Podcast - Episode #80. Great way to kick off the day and doesn't take very long :-)

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