Expressions of gratitude, no matter how small, go a really long way. Think back to the times someone said thank you to you. Maybe it was your boss, a student, a colleague or parent. Chances are, it make you feel appreciated, but it also made you just plain happy. You felt gratitude for their gratitude because they took note of something that you did. Expressions of gratitude matter.
School days are busy, but showing gratitude doesn't have to take up a whole lot of time. In fact, there are some easy ways to promote gratitude in schools. Here are some easy ways I have found to promote gratitude:
- Saying "thank you" to students often and publicly when they share an idea, ask a thought provoking question, help another student, submit their work on time, try hard, share a great joke, do the right thing, etc. etc. Students don't really need to do these things, so it is important to acknowledge their effort and commitment.
- Writing a quick note - even if it is just a post-it note - to say "thanks." Students, teachers, administrators and support staff should all receive these. Often.
- An inexpensive gift. At the holidays and the end of the year, I always give a little something to students and colleagues. Sometimes a cheap pen or a pack of silly post-it notes says a great deal. I want the people in our school to know that I appreciate their effort and skills - as well as their willingness to share them.
- Donuts! Students love a good donut and sharing them is a great way to say thanks for participating fully in our class discussion.
- Gratitude writing. Every now and again I have the students write for four minutes without picking up their pencils. The rules are simple: Write or draw what ever you are grateful for. Students can share if the like. I learned this strategy at a mindfulness class I took a few years ago. At that time, our school started implementing the Learning To Breathe curriculum, which has many effective ways to help students feel and express gratitude. I am always amazed by the depth of the responses. Students share that they are grateful for everything from family to hot water heaters to the kindness of others to their bus driver. Every single time I have asked the students to gratitude write and then after four minutes said "please stop writing," I have been met with groans and complaints of "but I had more to say." It is a powerful tool.
William Arthur Ward said, "feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." Let's all make sure that we are wrapping and giving the gifts of our gratitude!