Over the weekend, I spent quality time with family and friends. One tradition my family has is to express aloud our gratitudes of the past year to celebrate another year gone by. This practice is a reminder of the gifts in my life and in the world. As I observed my family in this annual practice, I noticed that as each story or anecdote was told, our table was filled with smiles and recognition, and we were oftentimes reminded of other moments in our lives that make us grateful. The cycle of gratitude was infectious and changed my view of my world in the moment and continued to spur thoughts of gratitude over the weekend. An attitude of gratitude benefits each of us emotionally and socially, and it can have a positive impact on our careers. The moments we are grateful for are the moments that can inspire the way we tell our story.
Having an attitude of gratitude makes us happier, increases our psychological well-being, enhances positive emotions, and increases our self-esteem. This was evident to me with our annual practice. According to Ackerman at PositivePsychology.com, “those who pay attention to what is good in their life instead of what is bad are more likely to feel positive about their life.”
Storytelling Activity: Begin with your own story. Try journaling for five minutes a day about what you are grateful for. Studies show that it can enhance our long term happiness by over 10% (Ackerman, 2021).
Being grateful has a social impact. Practicing gratitude makes people like us, improves relationships, increases social support, and helps a group deal with stress. Ackerman points out that “Those who are more grateful have access to a wider social network, more friends, and better relationships on average… because of the effect that being grateful has on how trustworthy, social, and appreciative we seem to others.”
Storytelling Activity: School systems can use social media to share gratitude by creating #ThankfulThursday posts. Sharing how your school appreciates members inside and outside of the system can create and strengthen relationships needed to be successful. There are national holidays that recognize many of the roles within a system. For example, January is Be Kind to Food Servers Month. In February a week is dedicated to appreciating school counselors. We will have reminders for many upcoming dates of recognition in our monthly newsletter. You can sign up for it here.
Gratitude in the workplace can inspire us in our careers. It makes us more effective managers, reduces impatience, improves decision making, helps find meaning in our work, reduces turnover, and reduces stress. These are all elements we want to see happen in our schools.
Storytelling Activity: Encourage educators and students to share their gratitudes and praise each other in person and through social media. Start meetings with gratitude highlighting a member for their hard work. Make it a habit to publicly recognize students through your PBIS program on social media. Take a gratitude walk once a week and pop in and thank someone who has impacted your week. Telling these stories can shift a culture into a more positive and productive environment.
The pandemic has had a lasting effect on teachers and students, and we cannot ignore that education is dealing with a shortage of teachers and substitute teachers. An attitude of gratitude will not fix all of our problems, but it can have a big impact on the stories we tell ourselves and others about the current situation in schools. Focusing on gratefulness can highlight the moments that keep us coming back to work each and every day. Telling these stories of gratitude will shine the light on the amazing moments happening in schools all over the country, so stakeholders can connect, trust, and support the schools, educators, and students.