Teaching Gratitude

Photo by Michele Venne

An unlimited amount of topics can be taught to students grades K-12. Some community members wish for schools to teach real-life skills, like balancing a check book, changing a tire, and how to cook basic meals. Others would prefer schools to focus on academic content in preparation for higher learning. Not every student learns life skills at home, or the characteristics needed to be successful in society. One such attribute is gratitude.

Positive character traits like honesty, helpfulness, kindness, and compassion are integrated throughout the K-12 experience, but mostly investigated during the elementary grades. Gratitude could also be on that list. Around the holidays, teachers may encourage students to consider what they are grateful for. Sometimes, this is the first that anyone has asked a student what they think or what they are grateful for in their lives. What they share is often eye-opening and truthful.

Parents and teachers can encourage students to consider what they are grateful for not only during the holiday season, but each week (a month for most students is too long of a time period for them to remember or reflect back). Keeping a planner is a typical requirement in schools. Some teachers give students time in class to record what will be covered that week and to make a goal. That goal can be for all of school or a particular class if they are struggling to understand the content or are behind in assignments. If a few minutes are given at the end of the week for quiet reflection, allowing students to determine if they met their weekly goal, that would be the ideal time to record one to three things the student is grateful for. Did they get help from a teacher? Make a sports team? Get to work on a project in class with a friend? Do well on a test? Meet their goal? By making space for students to create a gratitude practice while they’re young, it’s a habit that can have a positive effect on the rest of their lives.