Thanksgiving means something different to everyone: Family, food, football, even more food. But at its best, Thanksgiving is a holiday about gratitude.
Research into positive psychology has shown that gratitude has a cornucopia of mental and emotional benefits. From better sleep to better relationships, saying “thanks” is one of the most powerful things we can all do to improve our lives. Gratitude is baked into the DonorsChoose.org model. When a teacher gets a project funded, their students will write handwritten thank-you notes to donors who gave over $50. Every year, we hear from teachers who are using these notes in new and creative ways to help their students understand generosity and thanks.
Teachers are responsible for so much more than teaching math, music, or history: They also model and teach character. Here are a few of our favorite ways teachers are working gratitude into their lessons:
Gratitude Journals for an Entire Elementary School
Ms. Rager tested out gratitude journals in her classroom, and saw great results. Her students “would often say they were thankful for each other,” and they “grew closer because of those journals.”
She decided to expand the concept to her entire school, and donors funded an additional 78 journals for students. And, of course, they were grateful: “They aren’t just thankful, they want to spread joy… Those smiles have been the most surprising gift from this project.”
Sharing Gratitude from Juvenile Jail
Ms. Walker teaches special education at a juvenile hall in California, and her students often have troubled relationships with their families. So she created a project for stationary to help her students write letters to express feelings they haven’t been able to show in person. She writes:
“Many students are ashamed of themselves and scared to reach out to the people who they love the most. My project is to foster gratitude while honing their writing skills by creating cards for their loved ones centered around gratitude. Students will write poems and short letters in their cards to loved ones with the hope of reconciling broken relationships and sending loving kindness to those who have helped them in their lives.”
Thank-You Thursday in Middle School
Mrs. Forrest decided that sharing gratitude shouldn’t be a one-off event, so she created a project to help her students participate in “Thank-You Thursdays.”
ˆEvery Thursday students write a note to someone that has had a positive impact on their lives in some big or small way. The thank you notes will be used in class weekly to promote the notion of kindness, to acknowledge positive acts of others and reinforce the idea that we are all connected to one another.
She quickly saw the impact:
“I notice that my students skills in letter writing, spelling and grammar are developing over time with the writing of the thank you cards. However, even more important than that, they are enjoying bringing kindness into the lives of those around them.