In a typical fall, the arrival of Thanksgiving is an important milestone that signals the end of the transition to the new school year. Routines are established, students are settled, and teachers have completed the necessary assessments to ensure a year of learning together. This year, in addition to these perennial tasks, we have also had to adjust to “new ways of doing things”. From morning arrival to our ring road pick-up extravaganza, Matthews Hall parents, kids, and teachers are demonstrating that they have what it takes to adapt and overcome. While we are certainly not out of the woods yet, we are wearing our boots, looking closely at our compasses, and keeping our eyes ten degrees above the horizon!
By “looking up”, even a little bit, we can all find a lot to be thankful for this weekend. In terms of school, I am thankful every time I see how our crisp efficient campus continues to evolve as a welcoming and creative space for children. The ongoing metamorphosis of our indoor and outdoor spaces, accomplished in spite of occasional obstacles, has improved the school day experience for our students and teachers. As I see them moving about in natural light and generous space, I have a great feeling of relief. I am also grateful and I hope the students are, too!
While saying “thank you” is important (and increasingly rare), truly instilling a sense of gratitude in children goes beyond practicing good manners. It’s about a mindset and a way of living that are essential in order to be our best selves. After all, experts tell us and we know that we are happier when we practice being grateful – or at least we should!
Gratitude can also grant this same perspective to our kids. When we take into account the numerous opportunities, privileges, and material possessions our children enjoy through no effort of their own, it is easy to see why many of them can develop a feeling of entitlement. After all, they get used to getting things without really knowing or caring where they come from.
Practicing gratitude, on the other hand, underscores the fact that all those toys, gadgets, latest ear buds, lessons, and creature comforts don’t just drop out of the sky. When kids recognize that the things they have and the opportunities they enjoy come from someone other than themselves (…and that most of the world’s children do not have a fraction of them), it may just help them develop a healthier understanding of how truly grateful they should be.
If our children and students embrace an “attitude of gratitude” as they grow, it won’t be because we nag them into saying thank you all the time. It will be because they see us living out our own sense of gratitude. There are many opportunities every day for us to model gratitude for our students and kids, especially the kind of gratitude that has nothing to do with “things”.
There are far too many people in our world who are prone to turning their “great blessings into heavy burdens”; who have everything, but, in the end, are joyless. Why? There are many reasons, but certainly one is “gratitude amnesia”.
Habits of gratitude are formed in childhood and I am grateful every time I see a child who is learning this important life lesson.
In the present moment, it’s almost the most important thing we can teach them.