Focusing on the Profound Influence of Gratitude
By Superintendent Douglas
With the holiday season coming up our hearts and minds are often focused on gratitude and counting our blessings. I was thrilled to see that current research in education demonstrates the power of gratitude in the classroom. Studies show that grateful youth have higher GPA’s, are generally more positive in their attitudes, and go on to experience more meaningful lives. Further research indicates that gratitude among middle school aged students fosters hope and trust in others as well as a desire to give back to the communities in which they live.
When administrators, teachers, students, parents, and school stakeholders focus on gratitude, wonderful things happen. A simple acknowledgement that many good things in the world often come from outside ourselves is an easy place to start. An elementary school who partnered with the University of British Columbia, implemented a simple eight-week unit focused on gratitude and the results transformed their classrooms. Students learned about the concept of gratitude, practiced it, and began using gratitude journals. One researcher reported, “[Students] became so excited about the project that they rushed into the classroom each morning to write down what they were thankful for in their journals. Parents took notice and said that family conversations on the drive to school had turned to thankfulness and appreciation. Students also used the journals as a coping mechanism by taking them into a quiet area of the classroom to read when they were upset.”
It can often become easy to focus on what goes wrong. Instructional shifts and opportunities across the curriculum continuum targeted on gratitude are just as easy to target. Researcher Giacomo Bono offers the following seven ideas to teachers and parents aimed at cultivating gratitude for students:
· Think more about intentions, costs, and benefits. When students express gratitude they should think more about the thought behind what was offered them and the sacrifice someone made to give it.
· Use a gratitude journal.
· Participate in gratitude activities such as thank-you letters or making a list of things your are thankful for.
· Pair students up to increase cooperation. One thought of gratitude often leads to another. Gratitude is contagious.
· Encourage service learning.
· Model it. We can all improve our lives and our happiness by being more grateful.
Each of us has many things to be grateful for. Let us all strive to improve our schools, neighborhoods, and communities by fostering attitudes of gratitude. Happy Holidays!
McKibben, S. (2013). Tapping into the Power of Gratitude. ASCD Education Update, 55(11), 5-7.