Gratitude: It’s not just for Thanksgiving

Ok, Educators! Are you ready to power through these final days of 2022? One small tip to help energize you during these few weeks (and sustain you into 2023) is a daily gratitude practice. Many of us engage in the traditional Thanksgiving table go-round, but what does it look like after the leftovers have been eaten and the football has been played?

A few weeks ago, NHASCD welcomed educator and author Dr. Tom Hoerr to speak about his new book, “The Principal as Chief Empathy Officer: Creating a Culture Where Everyone Grows.”  (You can also catch up with him via the NHASCD Spotlight Podcast!)  In an article for ASCD, he writes, “Gratitude is an integral component of empathy. In expressing our gratitude, we appreciate others’ actions of support and care, and we recognize their feelings and motivations.”  This, Hoerr goes on to say, helps us build a kinder world. So, where to start?

There are some easy ways to incorporate gratitude for our colleagues through staff shout-outs at a faculty meeting or even taking it further with handwritten notes. And though it is wonderful to show our appreciation for others, it is equally essential to name our gratitude for ourselves.  There is a ton of research about the power of gratitude (here’s one scientific article if you’re interested!), and The Greater Good Science Center has all sorts of amazing resources to support this work; there is even a quiz you can take to find out just how grateful you are!  But if that all seems like a bit too much for right now, allow me to leave you with 2 easy to implement ideas.

1.) As you wake up in the morning – before even opening your eyes, name 3 things you are grateful for within these categories:  something, someone, and yourself.  Naming these ideas in your brain before opening your phone might just make those unwanted emails a bit easier to deal with.  (There are plenty of suggestions out there to do this at the end of the day, too,  but for me, I’m a morning person, so starting my day like this works for me!)

2.) “Put yourself in the way of beauty.”  On this episode of the We Can Do Hard Things podcast, I love the way Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild , among others, discusses this piece of advice from her late mother.  When you actively seek out that which is good, you begin to see more of it, thereby lessening the effect of that which is NOT good. This has a tangible impact on your energy and overall well being. So the next time things are crazy or you feel that familiar negativity seeping in, look around for something beautiful.  Pause, take it in, and remind yourself that things are going to be ok.

Chief Empathy Officer Hoerr reminds us that,  “If we want to elicit kindness from others, we need to visibly show it, and a simple and appropriate way to do that is to express our gratitude.”  And when we start with gratitude for  ourselves, we can become a beacon of kindness for all those around us, including those who are learning how to become adults by watching us: our students. There’s no greater competency than that.

With more than two decades of experience in education around the globe, Kristen Moreland is committed to bringing humanity back to education. A former middle school English teacher and Instructional Coach, she is currently serving as the Director of Teaching and Learning for the Littleton Schools in Littleton, New Hampshire. She joined the NHASCD board in February, 2022. You can follow her on Twitter @kmorekin and on Instagram @educatorsforhumanity