On Thanksgiving, we take a moment to pause to reflect, to count our blessings, and to express our gratitude. This, aside from the pumpkin cranberry bread and spending time with my crazy-but-lovable family, is why Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year. At this point in the school year, it can also be a necessary respite for a teacher’s sanity to have a few days to refresh and recharge. I’d like to share a teaching tradition that I started early on in my teaching career that helped me sustain my feeling of gratitude not only on Thanksgiving, but throughout the entire school year, especially during hard moments (we’ve all been there). I create what I call a teaching gratitude folder, a file full of things that remind me of all of the reasons why I teach and what I love about it. Just looking at mine can pull me out of a funk after a cruddy day of teaching or raise my spirits from a temporary setback.
Here are some ideas of things that I include:
Notes and Cards from Students
Sometimes students will surprise you with their thoughtfulness and leave you a note articulating their love and appreciation for you. Be sure to save these notes. For every one that is written, know that countless other students also feel the same way, even if they did not take the time to express it in writing.
Kind or Funny Things Said in Your Classroom
Any positivity that fills your class, not just a direct compliment, is a reflection of the culture that you create as a teacher. When students say kind words or something just darn right hilarious, write it down to enjoy for a long time come. I’m still cracking up about a kid who wrote made up a “frijoles” dance in my classroom ten years ago (maybe you had to be there?).
Happy Parent/Administrator/Colleague Emails
When an adult sends kudos your way, celebrate! Reading these words the first time surely made you glad, so be sure to print these out and put them in your folder.
A Description of a Lesson That Went Well or had a Wonderful Learning Outcome for Students
Remembering a lesson that inspired and brought out your students’ greatest potential is a great way to feel filled with love for yourself as a teacher and with gratitude for the profession. Note your successes so you can revisit them and reinvigorate yourself with the joys of a job well done.
Joyful Photos of Your Students/Classroom/or an Influential Teacher
A picture can inspire as much joy as a personal connection or a success story. I have a picture of my grandmother in my gratitude folder: she taught for over 30 years and was my impetus for becoming a teacher. Seeing her face re-inspires me to live up to her standard of impacting students. I also have photos of my old classroom set up like a pirate ship and photos of students dressed up for Colonial Day. Seeing the joy in learning never fails to make me smile, even on the worst day, and reminds me why I am in this field.
Pay it Forward: Write a Note to Another Teacher
Recently, I had my students watch a short video called the Science of Happiness.
Essentially, the main idea of the video is that we can increase our own level of happiness by showing gratitude to others. Following the video, the students each wrote letters to someone who was a large influence in their lives. While they wrote, I wrote letter of gratitude for their teaching to several of my colleagues, including specific, non-generic praise in each note, so they knew my appreciation was sincere. On the top of each note, I affixed a little note that said, “Be sure to place this in your gratitude folder.”
What teachers can you pay it forward to? Remember, doing so will also increase your happiness!
So, in short, it’s great to be show gratitude and feel gratified at Thanksgiving, but remember to carry that feeling with you throughout the year, and to show self-gratitude for being the great teacher that you are!
Thank you for reading and supporting Edcouragementor! I am grateful for you being a part of our community.