Remembering to be grateful
May 1, 2017
by Jenni Sebora

It is the time of year where kids (students of all ages) are crazy, crabby, and out-of-sorts. Spring has a tendency to do this. The long winter is over (no matter how much snow has fallen – winter is long for most kids), and the school year has become tedious.

I have been teaching for about 25 years, and this has not changed. This time of year, we see more behavioral challenges and decreased motivation, students are edgier, and nerves more frazzled.

This last week, I decided to implement some motivational interventions.

When my students come in the door to my program, I always greet them with a positive message, “Good morning, Tyler (not a student of mine). It’s good to see you today.” I do this with each student as they enter the room to start the day on a positive note.

In fact, I have read (I believe from Dr. Phil) that the first few seconds of an interaction can set the mood for the day. Why not start it out on a positive note? We are more productive when we are happy, or at least not mad or sad.

My young adult students recently took a gratitude quiz online to see how gracious and thankful they are. The quiz then provided a printout for each of them, relaying a gratitude score (according to the answers given), an anecdotal note about the score, and ways to increase graciousness.

I took the quiz, as well, and discussed my results with my students, as well as their results.

We discussed how being grateful and having a gracious mind-set means being very aware of “things” that we have, but also things that we don’t have. And, many times, this is just as important.

“I am alive today, healthy and working,” or “Wow, I am glad that car did not hit me.”

If you really think about it, there are so many instances where negative things could have happened and they did not.

Negative things do happen to all of us – illnesses, not getting a promotion, boss yessing, spilling coffee on pants on the way to work, flat tire, and, more dire, things such as deaths.

We all experience these things. No one is exempt from them. But, living with a gracious heart is such a happier way to live, and we all want happiness.

The book, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff. It’s All Small Stuff,” takes the attitude that most “sweats” are small. Very few things are “big stuff.” I tend to like this philosophy.

I, however, tend to get excited about many things. This has worked for me so far. It isn’t that I don’t ever indulge in pity parties for myself or those around me, but being mindful and aware of all the little things to be gracious about has helped make my quality of life pretty darn good. A joyful way to exist, and why not? It is a choice we make.

Gratitude journals in hand, my students and I take time twice a week to write in our gratitude journals. Any more than that becomes too satiated. I want them to be very mindful and specific about what they are writing about.

The identified beatitudes are to be specific, and longer than three words. Not just “family,” “friends,” “my dog.” Something like, “Having a coffee house date with my daughter tonight,” or “The great lunch I packed today,” or “Not having any activities to go to tonight.”

Writing it down helps solidify it in our brains, and helps with the development, enhancement, and/or maintenance of a thankful mindset.

I am hoping that my students and I will continue on this gratitude path. It is such a more joyful, prosperous way to live. (How do you like that description?)

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