How strong is your gratitude muscle?
The demoralising narrative that echoes around the Edu-Twitter chamber can be overwhelming.
It might seem like its all doom and gloom but that’s because it’s been allowed to.
There are certainly plenty of reasons to complain and critique and the issues are very real. Accountability and funding pressures have brought schools and teachers to their knees.
Yes teachers are burned up. Yes they are beaten up. This is not in question but despite this, some teachers display something to combat this depression to get them through the hard times.
They work within a broken system and fight against all its ugliness and pressures by being thankful.
They are thankful for the good and positive things still left. They are thankful that they still have the opportunity to make a difference. Children need teachers and teachers who show gratitude find a way around the obstacles.
Is gratitude the single most important teacher emotion and trait we have?
How teachers respond makes all the difference. We can’t allow ourselves to be bitter or angry because of a system that has systematically tried to suck all the fun out of schools.
Teachers are thankful they can still find that potential and to keep the spirit alive.
When we are grateful for the things that we do have i.e. wonderful kids who rely on us, then this makes us smile and as we know smiling is contagious. We can’t let children see us as victims.
Froch and Bono (2015) note, science has shown that gratitude is one of the most valuable and important emotions we possess, and it is a virtue that anyone can cultivate.
Being a teacher with gratitude makes you a powerful and positive force in school and every school needs impact-makers like this.
If we want children to be psychologically well, knowledgeable, responsible, socially skilled, physically healthy, caring and contributing citizens then teachers have to model this.
Robert Emmons has researched gratitude and reminds us that it is good for our bodies, our minds, and our relationships. He recommends keeping a gratitude journal and recording all the things we can be thankful for. This is something we can do as teachers and children can do as students so we can focus on the good and be more optimistic.
Emmons has studied more than one thousand people and found that those who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits:
- Stronger immune systems
- Less bothered by aches and pains
- Lower blood pressure
- Exercise more and take better care of their health
- Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking
- Higher levels of positive emotions
- More alert, alive, and awake
- More joy and pleasure
- More optimism and happiness
- More helpful, generous, and compassionate
- More forgiving
- More outgoing
- Feel less lonely and isolated
As the new term gets under way I reckon we have a lot to be thankful for.
Watch too Dr. Kerry Howells, a leading researcher into gratitude and education. She trains teachers to utilise gratitude in the classroom: