As I was cleaning up the house from one holiday and transitioning to the next, I couldn’t help but think of how habitual the whole process had become. Just 72 hours ago myself and loved ones were around the table saying grace and sharing what we were thankful for. Unfortunately, that presence of gratitude has already drifted away; that space is now filled with holiday music and monstrous sales. Why is it that once the the last bit of leftovers are gone, so is the presence of thanks?
Aside from reflecting on my own personal sense of fleeting appreciation, my mind drifted to the importance, and often lack of, gratitude in our schools. In my first year of teaching I had the unusual pleasure of sharing a wall with a slightly pessimistic yet devoted veteran teacher. She is the only person I have ever met that could be both incredibly cynical and caring at the same time. On one of my first few days on the job she shared her own philosophy of teacher appreciation. She told me something along the lines of: “whatever you do as teacher, you will never be thanked enough, not by money, not by words.” Now, I don’t recall the exact way she phrased those words, but I do remember the way they felt. They were agonizingly genuine. I could see the years of teaching on her face. The hours she had put in. The children she had served. It was hard to believe that sort of commitment could go unappreciated. I wonder what may have been different for her if “thank you” was something she received and handed out on the regular basis.
Appropriately for this time of year, Edutopia featured an article about gratitude serving as the fuel for transitional schools. The author, Elena Aguilar, explains it this way: “Our ability to feel gratitude is a muscle of sorts — it’s a habit our minds can develop — we just need practice.” She goes on to provide the reader with suggestions to incorporate gratitude in our day to day. As I prepare to become an educational leader I feel it is necessary to slow down and pursue the art of giving thanks. Learning to show appreciation will be critical in developing mutual trust and impacting the culture of a school. In case you would like to join me in gratitude boot camp, I have included the article with Aguilar’s suggestions below.