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How Gratitude Changed My Classroom Culture {And Myself!}

Oprah Winfrey told us all this, years ago – “Gratitude can transform any situation. It alters your vibration, moving you from negative energy to positive.”  But I guess I wasn’t listening all those years ago.

This year I started a deliberate practice of gratitude within my own teaching life.  We’ve all been there – it’s a rough year, it’s a rough bunch of kids, my team/department/principal is driving me crazy (or doesn’t appreciate me).

Every day I tried to write down 3 things that made today a “Good Day at Work.”  I kept them in my notes on my phone.  Some days it took some time to come up with three things and some days I only had 2 or even 1 thing to write down.  And then there were the days I couldn’t seem to stop writing.

Good Day Gratitude Poster

Gratitude can change our outlook, our energy, our positivity – and now I know it can change lives – my life to be specific.  I ended every day by thinking about the good, not the bad.  I remembered my student who stopped after class to tell me thank you, not the kid who fell asleep in class.  I remembered the compliments from my colleagues.  I focussed on what was working and going right, rather than what went wrong.  And I went home happier and more energized and excited to come back the next day.

I was happy – and people noticed. I’ll never forget the student who told me I smiled all the time and that none of his teachers ever smile.

By about October, I saw such a shift in my own life, that I decided to encourage my students to do this as well.  I created posters and cards and gave them to my students.  Each day at the start of class (or at the end) I would ask them to write down why today was a good day.  I could not believe what happened –

Some students fought me – which I expected.  I teach high school, so I know how some students would hate this.

But wow!  I had so many students who loved what we were doing.  I got notes from students.  I got emails from parents.  I found smiling faces and students who were more open to some of the tough conversations we have in our English classrooms.

Gratitude Practice Pin

The best day was the first time a student complained that they didn’t have enough room in the journals I made for them.  Or when they needed more time.

The absolute most wonderful day was when students wanted to start sharing their good day moments.  Then – my class culture changed.  I couldn’t force this.  It wasn’t an assignment to turn to a neighbor and share.  It happened organically.  Here is why I think this happened this way:

  • I consistently had students write in their Good Day Journals
  • I wrote my own Good Day Journal
  • Then I started sharing some of my entries aloud
  • Them I kept a place on my board for me to write down my Good Day moments so other class periods could see them
  • I would stop mid-teaching when something awesome would happen and add it to my Good Day section of my board
  • I started asking students to write It on a post-it note and stick it on our poster (anonymously) or to write them on the whiteboard in the back of the room – if they wanted
  • And then one day, a student wanted to share aloud

Just like with myself, some days are better than others.  Students are especially sassy the days we have tests or have to write essays and say “There is nothing good about today” and so I encourage them to think outside this classroom to all the other great things going on in their lives.

Does it take time? Yes.

Could you argue it has nothing to do with the curriculum? Definitely yes.

But we are teaching whole students, whole human beings, who are weighed down and if I can take 5 minutes to teach them a gratitude coping strategy that will transform their lives, then I’m going to do it!

Interested in the posters and journal I used?  Click Here.

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Hi, I'm Lesli!

I help Secondary English Teachers with engaging curriculum so that they can go home at contract time.

I’ve worked in education for 15 years, taught everything from Basic English and Mythology to AP Lang.  You’ll find me with my puppy Athena on the weekend quilting.

Learn more about me and how I can help you here.

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