Thanksgiving break heralds the end of fall season, and the beginning of winter. It is at this time that school seems to settle down, students find a groove, and we reach a level of comfort as a community. This transition between seasons, and the settling down into the norms of the community, provides time and space to step back from our busy lives in the Middle School and observe some our thoughts and feelings about the school year. It is also a natural time to reflect on the things in our lives for which we are grateful.
Speaking of which, an emerging body of research on the impact of gratitude shows that when students take on a consistent ‘attitude of gratitude’ practice, that is feeling and expressing gratitude to those around them, there is a higher correlation for academic success, and social-emotional well-being. For more information, here is an interesting article, ‘Being grateful is beyond good manners: Gratitude and motivation to contribute to society among early adolescents’.
As Middle School educators, we believe it is imperative that we design programming that supports whole child growth, and this emerging research has prompted us to look more deeply at how we foster gratitude within our students, and how we model this for them in our space.
With this in mind, over the last two years we have spent the days before and after Thanksgiving break writing letters of gratitude to each other. Each student receives the name of a classmate at random, and writes a short note expressing gratitude for their presence in our Middle School. I have the pleasure of reading through these cards before handing them back to the students, and when I was finished, I felt a swell of emotional pride. Our students know each other so well, and the cards they wrote were thoughtful and heartwarming.
We handed the finished cards out Tuesday afternoon and there were lots of smiles. More importantly though, students were seeking out the classmate who wrote the card for them, and thanking them for their kind words. The last thing I heard, as the last student left for the day, was a voice saying “Wow, I feel all warm inside!”... We did too.