Professor Patty Cake ® Professional Pointer #3- Teaching Gratitude

Numerous studies have shown the benefits of expressing gratitude. Defined as, the feeling of thankfulness and appreciation, gratitude has been linked to better sleep, improved self-esteem, strengthened relationships, reduced aggression, greater happiness, and overall improved health.

Unfortunately, despite its laundry list of benefits, gratitude is often lost in today's fast-paced, instant gratification, gimme gimme, self-absorbed entitled culture that we live in. Fueled by the desire to accumulate more and more with the purpose of flaunting our newest acquisition on social media for all our "friends" and followers to "like", we have evolved into a society focused on "what's next?" rather than focusing on and appreciating "what's now?" Given this, it is no wonder that children in your class/school, might not know why, how or when to express gratitude.

As educators, we have the unique opportunity to teach individuals in their formative years how to savor the moment, appreciate the now, and have gratitude for what they have been given. With the holiday season just around the corner, there is no better time than now to begin doing so. Below are several suggestions for how to implement gratitude activities into your instruction.

  • Designate at least one journal entry a week as a gratitude entry. You can give your students prompts such as: List 3 things that you are thankful for and explain why you are thankful for them., Who has done something nice for you this week? How could you thank him/her for his/her kindness?, What activities, hobbies, and or sports would you miss if you could not do them?

  • Facilitate a class discussion where you compare schooling today with schooling in the past and/or compare your school to schools in less developed countries. During the conversation, point out the positive attributes of your current school setting and benefits that the students receive by being part of your school community. Together, you can brainstorm ways to give back to the school by planning and implementing a service learning project or event celebrating the school.

  • Often our custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, office staff, and maintenance workers are the unsung heroes of our schools. They work hard each day to make sure our schools run well, yet they are often underappreciated and forgotten. You can brighten their day and show them appreciation by asking your students to write "thank you" cards for them. Not only will you brighten the day for the recipients, you can use the activity to teach and/or reinforce letter writing skills as well as give students a real life opportunity to show gratitude for others.

  • Implement a daily 5-10 minute break where students can practice meditation, yoga, guided breathing etc. Basically the point of the activity would be to give the students the opportunity to center themselves and focus on the things they are grateful for. If you are unsure about how to teach your students mediation, yoga, guided breathing, etc., have no fear ,the internet is a wonderful resource for finding cool "how-to" kid-friendly tutorials. You can also reach out to local yogis and mindfulness gurus to ask them for pointers and tutorials.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but hopefully one that will give you food for thought as you plan your instruction. Your students are lucky to have you and I am grateful for the time that you have taken to read this post. Namaste!

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