As a teacher of Wellbeing strategies, there’s not many topics I don’t enjoy teaching… but admittedly, I do have my favourites… and Gratitude has to be one of them.
Gratitude? Seriously? I know.
My inner Year 6 teacher, for whom ‘real’ learning and real results are the only concern, inwardly cringes even when I say it now.
But it’s okay. And I know it’s okay. Because according to the Science, the benefits of Gratitude practice are just as, if not more valuable than good grades in Maths, English and Science. A growing body of research and studies show that people who practice gratitude live happier lives in general, as well as being more emotionally and mentally resilient to lifes’ ups and downs.
So what does this look like in school?
When teaching the skill of Gratitude, I approach this in the same way that I would introduce a new concept in Maths or a text/theme in English. In fact, this is a really important step if you want the kids to take it seriously; something that may be a problem particularly in upper school.
We’ll look firstly at the the science behind the brains’ natural negativity bias and the Hedonic treadmill that we so often find ourselves on, resulting in an endless chase for happiness.
Then, we might consider how spending more time in the present moment (i.e. Mindfulness), with a focus on what we have rather than what we don’t have (Gratitude) might result in us becoming happier people overall.
Bearing in mind that some children find it incredibly difficult on first attempt to think of what they have to be thankful for, I like to pre-empt our thanks-giving by looking at stories of inspiration people who have powered through adversity with courage and determination. For children who can’t really understand the concept of being fortunate to have even the basics of food, warmth and shelter, this is a good reminder that not everyone in the world has these things. And it doesn’t hurt that these people are great role models to look up to, despite their less-than fortunate circumstances.
Then, at last, it’s time to talk about write about what we’re grateful for; those things that we’d really miss if we didn’t have; the people, places, things and experiences that make our lives better and easier. I seem to teach this differently each time I approach it, but here’s a weekly review sheet that I’ve used recently with KS2 students and young adults, to great success.
And that’s that. At least for that one session.
Like anything, if you want it to actually stick, it needs repeating and reinforcing, until students reach a point whereby spotting things to be grateful for comes more naturally than the opposite.