Coffee is my love language, and my husband faithfully tells me he loves me every morning before my eyes even open. His hard-working feet hit the floor at least thirty minutes before mine stumble on the ground in pursuit. Straight to the kitchen I trod, but the stumbling stops, and this day I pause to think on the blessing that awaits me each day. I am so thankful for this little token of love, but I haven’t always been so thankful. How can anyone lose sight of this blessing that rises like the faithful sun each day? I don’t quite know how, but I have. Sometimes, it seems like I have a checklist going of everything I need help with, of everything I am falling short in, and of my lack, which leaves my heart and eyes no space to focus on the blessings.
I fear the idea of gratitude has become so commonplace that it has slipped into the markings of a platitude. Or so it has been the case for me, as of late. I am turning my eyes around to see the long list, not of all I have to do, but of all I have to fill my gratitude plate.
How can you ensure that gratitude is being passed down to your students? First, with all things, we must model it. Gratitude does not happen by accident. My friend, Barbara Gruener says, “Gratitude is circular like that, creating a win-win, touching both the giver and the receiver in tangible and intangible ways.”. While I hope to nurture it within myself, my modeling will transcend beyond me. The brain is a fabulous organ, and I love its ability to CHANGE. I implement brain games into my classroom in each subject, empowering my students to make new connections, and to celebrate the new pathways being formed. Our brains are programmed to keep us safe from harm, but sometimes that means we are focusing on the dangers and the places to avoid, rather than focusing on the blessings that help us. Dr. Greenberg out of California shares some fascinating points from research on gratitude that reveals gratitude levels are tied to one’s level of happiness. In this same article, Dr. Greenberg shares tips to increase our gratitude such as keeping a gratitude diary.
Gratitude is shown to be the common thread among studies of people who reported an elevated level of happiness. Not only will we increase our students’ gratitude quotient, we will grant them access to increase their happiness! Sounds like a win in my book.
I use a variety of mentor texts to build upon the character traits I’m hoping to foster in my classroom family. I read Those Shoes to my students, and we discussed the character traits of Jeremy.
“He needed to be thankful for what he had.” And, “He is being greedy,” were some of the remarks from my fifth graders. I was proud of my students, who used their skills in character analysis to watch Jeremy’s heart stretch in kindness and gratitude; in turn, their hearts were doing the same. If we don’t build in time to point our students towards these character lessons, often, they will fall short of finding the tools they need. I don’t want blessings to pass them by, or a prepared pot of coffee to greet them like it’s commonplace. I will hunt for those blessings with them, and help them to see the blessings, as we train our eyes together, to focus on the positive.
Hailey Bartholomew, in this Ted Talk, shares her gratitude breakthrough, and the spillover of blessings it brought in her life. By retraining her thinking, she began to look at life through a new lens, and captured the images which evoked gratitude. Some of the things that made that list were the color green, a beetle that landed on her daughter’s chest, and hugs from her children.
I encourage you to look around and fill up your list, not with all of your to-dos, but with the makings of a gratitude list with me. Let’s fill that list up, so our eyes will see everything through a lens of gratitude.
Dr. Melanie Greenberg, How Gratitude Leads to a Happier Life, Psychology Today, November 22, 2015 https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201511/how-gratitude-leads-happier-life
Boelts, Mary Beth. Those Shoes. Cambridge, Candlewick, 2009.