When Rachel Simmons came to speak to us last month, she finished her discussion with a nod to the importance of gratitude. She placed new emphasis on the way feeling gratitude can have a positive impact on one’s health and wellness. The girls who heard her speak were hanging on every word. Building on this message, every day at lunch I have been encouraging gratitude for the meal and the opportunity to enjoy time together. Teachers remind the girls what it means to be thankful during Morning Meetings, and recently our fifth-grade girls wrote what they are thankful for on paper chains. See the photo below. Some of their sentiments included gratitude for family, friends, and pets, however many rings spoke about thankfulness for a warm home, religion, and education.
The month of November brings thoughts of gratefulness each year. Students and faculty alike have now settled into the routines of the school year and can catch their breath and enjoy being together. At the same time, we begin to realize that the calendar pages get turned way too quickly, days often fly by, and if we stop to enjoy each moment, we can slow the process down. Our Morning Meetings this year have given us a place of quiet reflection. We come together each day and through story, or music, or shared conversation, we have a chance to think about what is important. Recently, the third-grade girls completed a grateful-for-each-other paper during their Morning Meeting. They were given a classmate and anonymously wrote kind words and thoughts. The papers were shared and treasured. Stopping to take a moment to remember the qualities of each other provided a feel-good experience for all.
Several years ago, I attended an education conference in Vancouver. One of the speakers was Dr. Shimi Kang who had recently published a book about parenting and raising happy, healthy and self-motivated children, titled The Dolphin Parent. I highly recommend this book for your parent library. There are great insights in the book and clinical research to support ideas. One suggestion that impressed me was to encourage your child to keep a “gratitude journal”. She mentions that it can help improve health and happiness while “guiding your child towards valuing community and contribution.” Dr. Kang feels that building a habit of appreciation for what you receive and give to the greater community promotes a strong, positive sense of self. Timemagazine reported on the value of gratitude and concluded, “People who describe themselves as feeling grateful, tend to have higher vitality and more optimism, suffer less stress, and experience few episodes of clinical depression than the population as a whole.” I have included an article from this time last year that outlines ideas about encouraging gratitude and the joys of journaling or letter writing as a vehicle for expression. Enjoy.
Encouraging Students to Feel Gratitude
I will start this next work week feeling grateful for the wonderful school community that affords me the opportunity to continue this dialogue about the changing role of education in our lives.
I hope that my communication with you encourages “talking points” to inspire weekly conversation with your children. Here are some “talking points” for this week.
- What was the message from this week’s Morning Meeting with Mrs. Teeling? What teacher did she express gratitude for? What did Mrs. McAslan discuss about artwork on display? Is art one of your favorite subjects? What artwork did Abigail and Laney have featured in the Walters Art Gallery show?
- If you are in Kindergarten- What did your drawing look like for the Winter Concert Program? Who had their work selected?
- If you are in First Grade-How are your many dance rehearsals coming along? What have you learned about the animals of Mexico?
- If you are in Second Grade- What have you learned about the Ancient Egyptians? How awesome was the homemade sweet potato pie that you made from your garden potatoes?
- If you are in Third Grade- How are you doing with Typing Club? What are “home keys”? What did you plan for your moonscape base as part of the Lego League Challenge?
- If you are in Fourth Grade- How are the routines coming along for the tap dance you will perform at the Winter Concert?
- If you are in Fifth Grade- Did you enjoy creating a miniature version of the Macy’s Day Parade? Whose design did you feel worked the best? How hard or easy was the Ollie to control as a balloon operating machine? What do you mean by “personal space” after the lesson you had with Ms. Best?