Is there anything better than an unexpected gratitude note or verbal thanks from a student or parent?
This blog post explores how to support a culture of gratitude in the classroom by providing tools, tips, and resources for any educator at any grade level.
As I spend more time with teens in the classroom, I realize this job is truly a thankless job. Of course, none of us teach in anticipation of receiving countless thank you notes from our students. But we certainly all react with positive vibes when we do!
Gratitude is something that is taught. It does not occur naturally in humans. So often, humans feel grateful for people or things in their lives, but maybe the fast-paced nature of their worlds pulls them away from the act of giving gratitude. I certainly feel that pull everyday.
There are countless ways to foster a culture of gratitude in a classroom, and I want to share a few ways I do this.
- Model gratitude Like with anything in our profession, if we want a desired outcome, we have to show our students and not just tell them. Each class period I spend the first moments thanking each of my students for choosing to be there. Each of them has a choice to tune in or not; and those students that present are gifts to all of us in the classroom.
- Include empathy and compassion: I try to tell my students how grateful I am for their hard work and resilience in these times of Virtual Learning and COVID-19. Instead of just saying thanks for being there, the gratitude is better couched with empathy and compassion.
- Sharing gratitude in student feedback: I try to thank each student for the effort they put into their project or assignment. Something quick and specific that can honor the little to a lot of work and time and effort they spent on their assignment.
- Thank you notes: Our school has post cards printed for us to send to students. All we have to do is write them and address them and our school mails them to the students for us! I try to write a couple a semester to those students struggling the most with home life or mental health issues. Although I have never received acknowledgment that they received or read them, they know I genuinely care about them.
At my school, Central Coast New Tech High School in Nipomo, California, we as a staff/faculty are building a culture of gratitude. I learned this from a great teacher mentor of mine and asked to implement it last year. It is called “Teacher Shout Outs”.
Each staff meeting, we take time at the start to write specific and meaningful things we have seen our staff members do over the past week. Then, our Principal collects them and reads them to the full group! There is nothing like getting noticed by your peers for something you are pouring your heart into.
Here is our Teacher Shout Outs Template if you want to make a copy and use them at your school!
Here are some awesome blogs that share resources, books and research surrounding gratitude in the classroom:
The Gypsy Teacher: http://www.alliethegypsyteacher.com/2019/10/gratitude-activities.html?m=1
Cool Cat Teacher: https://www.coolcatteacher.com/5-ways-to-encourage-gratitude/
Finally, here is some research that shows what gratitude can do:
- Help you make friends. One study found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek a more lasting relationship with you.
- Improve your physical health. People who exhibit gratitude report fewer aches and pains, a general feeling of health, more regular exercise, and more frequent checkups with their doctor than those who don’t.
- Improve your psychological health. Grateful people enjoy higher well-being and happiness and suffer from reduced symptoms of depression.
- Enhance empathy and reduces aggression. Those who show their gratitude are less likely to seek revenge against others and more likely to behave in a prosocial manner, with sensitivity and empathy.
- Improve your sleep. Practicing gratitude regularly can help you sleep longer and better.
- Enhance your self-esteem. People who are grateful have increased self-esteem, partly due to their ability to appreciate other peoples’ accomplishments.
- Increase in mental strength. Grateful people have an advantage in overcoming trauma and enhanced resilience, helping them to bounce back from highly stressful situations.
Morin, A. (2014, November 23). 7 scientifically proven benefits of gratitude that will motivate you to give thanks year-round. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2014/11/23/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-of-gratitude-that-will-motivate-you-to-give-thanks-year-round/#5173c7f5183c