As we roll in to the month of November and lessons and discussions about early Native Americans, colonial settlers, and Thanksgiving traditions abound in the classroom, this is an excellent opportunity for us all, students, staff, parents, families and our school community at large, to reflect upon the concept of “gratitude,” and to consider the ways in which we can ensure that thankfulness is not isolated simply to the month of November.
As I walk through the classrooms, halls, and grounds of Belmar Elementary School and attend the myriad athletic and extra-curricular events that are a rich part of our school tapestry, I have become more and more aware of how truly appreciative I am for being a part of our wonderful school community and how the relationships I’ve developed with students, teachers, staff, parents, and families have grown and developed into very special connections that I am confident will endure for many years. I’ve also become conscious of the fact that nurturing this “attitude of gratitude” is an action, not simply a feeling. It takes time to reflect, to purposefully focus on the many positive things happening in our lives, to mindfully turn away from negativity. Even with my own children in college and high school, my personal time can be fraught with busy schedules, grad school, making dinners, and attending evening events. How do we recharge our batteries and refill our own “buckets?” How can we support our students in engaging in this same practice?
In a 2008 research study published in the Journal of School Psychology, counting blessings as part of a classroom practice was associated with enhanced self-reported gratitude, optimism, life satisfaction, and decreased negative affect (Froh, Sefick, Emmons). Knowing that students are faced with social and emotional challenges throughout their adolescence, it behooves us to increase opportunities for them to experience gratitude-inducing experiences. These can include daily journaling with a focus on appreciating the people and things we have in our lives, meal time practices of expressing gratitude for small moments in our day, classroom morning meetings which incorporate activities for thanking our peers for their friendship, and other teachable moments that increase positive behavior and feelings of satisfaction.
So before we break for Thanksgiving recess, before we gather with our family and friends for a bountiful meal, let’s all take the opportunity to count our blessings and say Thank You….every day….throughout the entire year!
Have a Wonderful Thanksgiving!
Lisa Gleason, Principal