Connecting Your Students through Gratitude

Amy Kobos, Health and Wellness Promoter, Fayetteville

What makes our teachers great? Each one of us has a unique experience that has sculpted us into who we are. Some have had very challenging lives, while others have challenges that lie ahead. Our teachers realize this, and with skill and patience, they assist us in challenges and help us grow from them. What is this fuel which helps us progress through these obstacles? It could be a physical skill an instructor took the time to demonstrate that helped you learn how to take risks in life. It could be your 6th grade teacher who helped you understand a math skill so you could incorporate it into your adulthood. It could even be the parents who establish healthy boundaries in real life.

Gratitude is central to the holiday season and the New Year! What better time to encourage students to appreciate how teachers have helped them flourish in the classroom and beyond! Last month, we mentioned a gratitude activity in the “Rethink Your Holidays with 10 Healthy Tips,” article which focused on gratitude among classmates. This emphasized the uniqueness of what or who helps us get through the challenges in our lives. This also incorporated the value of interpersonal relationships, cultural diversity, and critical thinking into the classroom. Let’s take this a step further with your students so they can show gratitude for you!

Here are some ideas:

  • Make a gratitude jar for the teacher as a gift. Throughout the semester, each student could submit words of appreciation on how he/she has developed while in the classroom.
  • Integrate gratitude towards teachers in your students’ weekly journal entries.
  • Have the students collect and frame inspiring quotes that mean something them as a gift to the teacher.
  • Instead of students bringing in sweets to show appreciation, encourage the students and parents to put together healthier gifts, like fruit bouquets, yogurt parfaits, a pass to the local botanical gardens, or even gift card for a massage or Home Depot.

Gratitude isn’t just a tool we use for self-exploration and self-growth. Gratitude is a tool we use to connect. When students participate in activities like this, it helps them become aware of what facilitates their obstacles and progress. It develops a healthier state of mind by turning those “what ifs” into something more assuring, like “I’ll do fine no matter what.” Gratitude connects us to all of those little life events and people of which or whom we may have taken for granted. This forms a unique footprint which helps sculpt those bridges that we can utilize on whatever path we take.