I have been a proponent of expressing gratitude on a daily basis, and it has had a ripple effect on several people in my life.
My sister told me that she does it, and was able to emotionally survive a massive thunderstorm walking home alone with her two young children from a playground. She and I both agree that was no small feat.
My own children see my husband and I express gratitude for big and little things at dinner, and
A group of my students all wrote five things in a gratitude journal.
The idea of a gratitude journal was shared with me by one of my most difficult student leaders. When I asked my students what they wanted their legacy to be, this was what he chose. Since that year, I have reflected a lot about my relationship with this student, and I think he taught me more about leadership than many of the actual leaders in my life experience.
In a recent interview I conducted for my podcast, Avery Forresstal shared with me that the perception of being joyful and grateful is not that easy. He couldn’t be more right. It is far easier to get sucked into the things that are bad, went wrong, and the problems or challenges.
We have to fight against those negative thoughts on a consistent basis, and it is not easy. The first step is to recognize the effort it takes to shift your self talk and the thoughts in your head from negativity and blame, to accepting responsibility and looking for the silver lining.
As I write this, I think about the parents, educators, and leaders that speak these words, but don’t often model the search for the silver lining themselves, or honestly share the effort that is required to find the silver lining. Those silver linings are hard to spot - we have to look through the darkness and negativity, and sometimes (well, a lot of the time), we don't have the courage, the time, or the stamina to do that. Just listen to how you talk to yourself, or how your students talk to each other. So much of it is negative, self deprecating, and mean.
It takes effort.
To help my students, I want to add this time into my classroom, where I can find the space to practice gratitude. I will ask my students to write something positive about themselves on the top of the classwork each day.
I was sharing this specific struggle with my former superintendent about the year of COVID, and I told her it was really hard to see the positive this year. I said I wished I had practiced my own exercise to write down something I was grateful for about my administration, my school community, and my students. I bet it would have been hard at first, but if I knew I was going to do it every day, then I would have started looking for things to be grateful for, and once you start looking, you actually see more. More positives. I really wish I had done that - COVID was hard, and put a lot of people, and definitely educators, in a negative headspace. We saw negative, and since we weren’t looking for positive, all we saw was negative.
I like to compare this to buying a new (or “new to you”) car. All of a sudden, you start seeing the same car everywhere. It’s not that those cars weren’t there, you just didn’t notice them before.
The same is true with positivity and gratitude.
So many practices start hard, but after some consistency, those skills get easier, because you get better.
By asking my students to do this, I hope to accomplish two things, but if more happens I will be overjoyed!
I want them to practice gratitude
I want to acknowledge the challenges that come with doing this, at least initially.
I may be just a chemistry teacher, but this chemistry teacher knows she can support more than just the content knowledge of chemistry.
What can you do to support the whole person your students are this year?
Was your 20-21 school year really negative? Do you want to try and change it for yourself? Try practicing gratitude yourself, ask your students to as well, and start looking for more positivity out there. Maybe you will feel less negative and more positive!
We can only change ourselves.