It's that time of year again - the time so many of us stop and say thanks for all the gifts we receive from the universe each day. It's a very reflective season, leading up to a season of giving and often of overindulgence. I often wonder at this time of year what we can offer to our students that will make the reflective and thankful aspects of Thanksgiving last throughout the year.
How long for an action, a thought, or a practice to become a habit? I've heard varying opinions on this, but most settle at right around three weeks. I tried this out myself recently. I've done it before while going through Covey training, while making plans for my students, or after watching Oprah. This time I did it just for me. I tried to think of and write down three things each day for 21 days that I am grateful for. Sometimes I just really miss Oprah! I think she nudged so many of us to become more reflective.
At first, it was the usual list that comes to each of our minds immediately: our families. Spouse, parents, children, siblings, grandchildren. The maybe some special moments with each of them. Then I expected the list making to grow more difficult. The great surprise (to me anyway) was that it became easier and easier each day to think of three things that make me feel grateful, and in fact harder and harder to stop at just three.
Grateful for a warm breeze against my cheek here in Michigan in November.
Grateful that I can easily walk into the mall from the farthest parking spot. (This revelation should come in very handy when holiday shopping begins in earnest, and the only spots available are the farthest!)
Grateful for the first rays of sun that wake me up now that I am retired. (Got up in the dark every day for years!)
My personal list continues to grow and grow.
What's on your list? Are you comfortable sharing at least a part of it with your students?
Introducing an attitude of gratitude to your students and building upon it until it reaches habit status just might make a difference in the atmosphere of your class in general and in the life of each of your students in particular.
Some easy to implement suggestions:
Declare your gratitude together.
Add a declaration of gratitude to your class meeting time.
(I'd call it morning meeting time, but most years my class meeting was never in the morning. It's so important, I think, to have that community building time, no matter what the time slot during your busy teaching day.) Use talking sticks, a rainstick, a special ball, or even a glittered leaf to get the discussion started. As each student receives the talking prop, he/she must state one thing, person, idea, aspect of their life for which they are grateful. (OK to "pass" until some great examples have been set and all have the idea.)
Change up your playlist.
If you don't already use music to inspire your students to be kinder, better, stronger versions of themselves, now is the perfect time to start. If you already use music to enhance your teaching and your collective day, brief pause here for applause and a pat on the back. (At least a silent cheer for you, awesome teacher!) Add some songs to your daily playlist with the theme of gratitude. Two of my favorites available online for free (just click and enjoy!):
If your students already have journals, tab a section of it for thoughts of gratitude. If you would rather, start a new gratitude journal that kids can keep all year to nurture and continue to grow their new habit of declaring gratitude. Write right along with them at least at first. Make yours honest, heartfelt, descriptive, and a beautiful example of the way you'd like theirs to look. Use special paper, markers, pencils, etc. to embellish it. I have a Pinterest board where I save ideas for journaling that inspire me. Feel free to take a peek or to follow!
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I hope you have found a few ideas here to make this season of reflection more meaningful this year in your classroom. For more November ideas from some of my favorite bloggers, please visit more November Teacher Talk posts!