As the month of November comes to a close, let us take a few minutes to consider the specific actions we can take daily to practice thankfulness by demonstrating gratitude in your classrooms and communities.
Demonstrating Gratitude for Small Things
It is the little things we often take for granted in our lives. For example, eating breakfast may be a typical part of your routine and you may not usually pause to appreciate the food you have presented in front of yourself. To share your gratitude with others you could donate food or funds to a local organization so that others will have the opportunity to appreciate their next meal.
To help your students appreciate the small things in their life, you may show them gratitude rituals like taking a nature walk. You can demonstrate gratitude for your students during a walk together, perhaps by picking up trash in nearby parks and playgrounds, practicing care for your natural surroundings alongside one another.
Demonstrating Gratitude in Ourselves
To appreciate ourselves, we must give ourselves grace. Practice self-affirmations to acknowledge what you do well. For example, after each class period you can encourage yourself to affirm at least one element of your teaching that you have done well. By acknowledging your success you can then go to your next class period feeling more positive and will be more present with your students. The more positive affirmations you can give yourself the better your will feel about your teaching performance and as a result will be fostering your mental health.
Teaching gratitude to students of any age starts with planning strategies to incorporate in class that encourage them to recognize elements of their lives that evoke positive emotions. From there, we can lead a discussion on how they would demonstrate this gratitude and thankfulness toward themselves. For example, a body cut-out activity could allow for students to draw or color something about themselves they are thankful for having, which helps them with some element of their sports or performance-related activities. Some students may color in their feet for dancing, while others may color their fingers for playing a musical instrument.
Demonstrating Gratitude to Influence Others
When we pursue acts of gratitude in public settings, such as schools and classrooms, we have the opportunity to positively influence others to take on acts of gratitude. You can encourage your students to lend a helping hand to assist a teammate in getting up after a tough fall. Younger students who may see this action on the playground may then be inspired to help up a classmate in passing in the halls. Other opportunities may arise naturally with these newly practiced gratitude skills in other settings such as clubs, sports, and home life.
While we emphasize gratitude during the month of November, there are acts of kindness we can engage throughout the year to support students with these considerations of thankfulness in classroom activities. As we know, by regularly practicing gratitude we will enjoy all of the benefits as mental health, physical health and social-emotional health.
Our next few blogs will extend these efforts with classroom students to practice not only gratitude, but other virtues as they learn to understand and practice elements of positive character, such as responsibility, caring, fairness, appreciation for diversity, respect for others and trustworthiness.
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.