Dreams of Summer by Meredith Johnson and #PLN friends
Can you hear the soft summer breeze just outside your window? The songs of the birds flitting from branch to branch welcoming the change in seasons and often, a shift in your life. I asked several educators to share their dreams of summer so I could add them to this blog post. It is a wonderful time of year when different thoughts run rampant in an educator’s imagination and call out to them to alter the daily habits they have grown so accustomed to following. I hope you enjoy reading the thoughts they have shared. Perhaps, once the cool winds of autumn blow, they will again share and write their memories of a summer past?
By Tosh McGaughy @ToshMcGaughy
Two weeks ago, our family became whole again as my husband fetched our college freshman daughter home from Norman for the summer. Her metal straws, her vegan cheese, and her ethically sourced toiletries are back with a vengeance, and we are all delighted to have her home, even for just a couple months. My husband and I actually are fighting for opportunities to drive her to her job in Dallas (she won’t drive or own a car because of her carbon footprint), just so we can have the drive time to talk with her and catch up on everything we have missed over the last nine months. As proud as we are of her launch into adulthood, we have all missed her terribly. Thankfully, my summer hours at work give me Fridays off so we will have long weekends to visit museums, explore new vegan restaurants, and go to plays and concerts. Catching up on Grey’s Anatomy episodes and a July trip to NYC is also part of our Charlotte-is-home-for-the-summer plans. Having our family under one roof seems like a gift; a gift that I took for granted for eighteen years but that I won’t this summer. Hooray for family time and daughters who return home!
A Couple of Reasons Why I Love Summer
By Rachelle Dene Poth @Rdene915
When people find out that I am a teacher, one of the first things they say is “it must be nice to have your summers off.” Yes, it is, but in all honesty, I would be totally fine if my school switched to year-round schooling. I enjoy being in the classroom and look forward to each day and what it brings, even the challenges that might pop up. More than anything, I love working with students and learning from them. My reason for loving the summer is not because I don’t have to go to work; it’s because it is an opportunity to have more time with family and friends and to take part in professional development and reflection.
Time for Reconnecting
Life gets so busy sometimes that before you know it, weeks and months pass by and you might find that you haven’t had a lot of time to spend with family and friends. Of course, technology helps us to stay connected, whether we use text messaging, different apps, FaceTime or even a hangout to see our family and friends, it’s not the same as time together in person. More days at home means more time for family and friends.
I’m also excited for conference season to be here and to have time to spend with some of my closest friends learning together and relaxing. I will be presenting at Summer Spark and ISTE 2019, fantastic conferences that bring so many educators from around the world together. I’m looking forward to being a part of the EdWriteNow Volume 3 group of authors in July and spending time with my good friend Jennifer Casa Todd and a writing retreat later this summer. Knowing that I will spend time with my core groups, the 53s and the #4OCFPLN, plus meet other members of my PLN for the first time, in real life, is one of my favorite things about the summer.
Time for Recharging
Summer is a time for a lot of things, one of the most important is self-care and recharging. So, doing some normal summer things like sleeping in late, catching up with friends and family, going on vacations, ditching our devices and not worrying about setting the alarm are important for our self-care. Summer is also a valuable time for teachers to do even more on a personal and professional basis like think about their practice and take advantage of the opportunities that are out there for personal and professional development and growth.
Time for Learning
A more flexible schedule for the summer means more time for attending conferences or webinars, joining in book studies or Voxer groups, or connecting within different learning communities. It might be easier to get involved in a Twitter chat, whatever it is during the school year that just doesn’t seem to fit as part of your routine, make it part of your summer routine.
There are lots of opportunities out there and my advice is to decide what is best for you. Do you want to be in one Voxer group or join one book study? Then make that your focus. Or maybe you want to start a blog or create a new website. It’s up to you because it is your time to decide how to spend your summer break. I’m thrilled to be part of the summer BookcampPD book study with my book In Other Words. Looking forward to discussing the six books included in the study and of course, the two weeks in July (July 15-28), when we get to talk about my book and share ideas and takeaways from it.
Each summer gets better and better, and it’s not because I traveled and spent hours on beaches, or to the contrary, kept idle. It is because I have used the time to learn more, to read, to connect, to reflect and to prepare for the next year. My summer goal is to work so I can start stronger and be better than I was the year before. Whatever you do this summer, make time to recharge, connect and learn. And don’t set the alarm 🙂
Kellie Bahri @kbahri5
Awesome! Summer for me is bittersweet. Saying goodbye to the school year is very difficult for me. I’m a work workaholic, so shutting my brain off takes serious commitment, but it’s my gift to myself. My dreams for summer always take me to Michigan’s lakes. Whether I’m paddle boarding in the lily pads, kayaking Lake Superior, or just dangling my feet off a dock into the water, I am home. Being in nature refuels my soul. I am a much better teacher for it.
Hedreich Nichols @Hedreich
As a tech/design teacher in an IB middle school, I spend most of my day connected to some device. Google Classroom, PowerSchool, music, emails, my personal kid’s grades, etc. I also read, shop, tweet and binge watch all online, so I dream of being unplugged with the ocean reflected in my aviators. I want to sit under an azure sky with a latte, or something icy with an umbrella in it, letting a gentle breeze caress me, while salsa music- band, not playlist– soothes my soul.
Lainie Levin @mrslevin11
This summer, I dream of doing more. More “less.”
Let me explain.
Throughout the school year, I pack all of the “more” I can into my days. Between planning, grading, kid logistics, managing a household and trying to maintain some semblance of self-care, I find myself crammed in with little room to breathe.
I used to feel obligated to be productive with my summers so that when people asked me what my plans were, I would have an answer that sounded important and busy: graduate work, professional development, curriculum planning.
Don’t get me wrong, I still continue much of that over the summer. I don’t think it’s ever possible to completely shut off my teacher’s brain. But I’m also realizing that I don’t have to feel guilty for having times where I am unproductive. Simply put, I need to come up for air. And summer is the time to do it.
And if that means I do less? So be it. I’m owning it.
This summer, I dream of doing less of my “more,” and more of my “less.”
More hiking and walking.
More working out.
More catching up with friends.
And when I come back to school in the fall, there will once again be more of me to go around.
BreAnn Fennell @PlayYay
I dream of some time on the beach with my boys.
Helping children learn to journal during writing camp.
Holding hands and taking walks.
Boosting creativity by speaking at a conference.
Meeting with my looping students to build relationships even during the summer months.
Finding a balance between parenting and teaching.
Bridget Gengler @BridgetGengler
When I think of summer I think of rejuvenation, reflection, and relaxation. I love my job as an educator, but during the school year there is so much going on. My mind is in a million different places and the stress and being overwhelmed takes over. I always must remember to slow down and find ways to de-stress. When summer comes, it is the time to work on myself and it allows me to find myself again. It is a time for family and friends, a time for fun and adventure and a time for quietness and peace.
This summer I plan on starting my mornings outside on my new patio with a cup of coffee and a good book. There are so many books that I want to read- some professional and some for pleasure. I plan to get lost in many books and enjoy the solitude that it brings to my soul.
I look forward to spending time with my family and creating new memories. With my son, I want to spend time enjoying our baseball. Our love for Yankees baseball is one of our bonds and I can’t wait to connect in that way. My daughter is off to college at ASU this August, so I hope to spend time with her, not only getting ready for this new chapter in her life but also just enjoying each other before she begins this new journey. With my husband, I plan to take short trips to some of our favorite places on the Central Coast of California and enjoy the beauty of nature and our state.
My #oneword2019 is gratitude and my mission this year is to write letters to all who have impacted my life and inspired me. Over the past couple of months, the busyness of the school year has taken over, so I have had to put those letters on hold. Each morning I hope to spend part of my quiet time reflecting and expressing my gratitude to those special people.
Summer is a time to take care of myself and my relationships. It is a time to enjoy who and what is around me. I look forward to the relaxation, rejuvenation, and reflection that this summer will bring.
Sometimes a poem strikes me, and I’m able to write it in the moment. I get an idea for an image, a phrase or a metaphor, and I just can’t help myself.
Other poems are more coy. They want me to write them, but maybe I have too much to say and don’t know how to squish it all down. Or maybe I feel too strongly and the words haven’t quite yet translated.
I’ve been trying to write this poem for about three years now. It surfaces each time I ask my fourth graders to personify an attribute or emotion. I keep wanting to write this poem, but it’s eluded me. It doesn’t help that this assignment comes around the same time of year I lost my brother, and writing about grief while I’m feeling it is…well…messy.
This year, for whatever reason, this incredibly patient poem decided it was time. Enough with the nonsense. Just write already. So I wrote. Here goes:
I am Grief.
We may not
But we will,
When we first meet, I am
Awaiting you in moments
Large and small.
I hold you tight enough
To steal your breath.
Or hide behind a corner
Waiting to spring you
In the off-chance you have forgotten me.
People know me by
That tell-tale dimple on the cheek
That one song that comes on the radio
The telephone call you go to make before realizing
People never consider
How attached I am
But there we are,
As best friends are.
People never consider
I am not one to be escaped
I am not one who should be escaped.
I want to whisper,
Sit with me.
Let me surround you,
I am here, yes.
And so is Love.
As you sit,
And as you sink,
You might just fall.
I just finished reading What School Could Be (2018) by Ted Dintersmith @Dintersmith and almost every page contains examples of schools who are jumping into innovative practices. Ted shares that we roll out, “Yet another round of teaching all students standardized material, in standardized ways, to a new battery of standardized tests.” He shares six variables that stand out which educators can use to capitalize on an innovative change model that empowers teachers and students (pg. 189 – 190). The hundreds of educators I worked with during my forty-year career would certainly agree that I adored innovation. I also stood solidly behind the new standards when they were released. I fully embraced them as a motivational tool to cease educators spending two months on a unit about dinosaurs and a student who endured this only to have a different teacher, two years later, spend three months on the same topic. When I began in education students took standardized tests, but the data went into three-ring binders that collected dust on the shelves. Teachers rarely, if ever, saw the results. As the assessment corporations increased their data reports to include sheets that both teachers and parents could easily understand, the amount of money school districts were spending increased ten-fold. We grabbed hold of those data sheets, pouring over the results, to locate gaps that, once filled, would help our students’ achievement continue to increase. What has happened in the decades that have followed (No Child Left Behind, 2001 and Race to the Top, 2009) with both standards and standardized assessments, haven’t led us down a path to innovate.
All this standardization lead to developing “good little soldiers” who could learn the standardized curriculum and spit out lower level responses to standardized assessments. This leads me to the question, “What if …..” as I don’t believe most of us have the desire to settle for “What is ..” “Standardized-testing regimens cost states some $1.7 billion a year overall, or a quarter of 1 percent of total K-12 spending in the United States, according to a new report on assessment finances. If the money for standardized assessments was instead put toward teacher raises, the report estimates that each teacher in the country would receive, on average, a rise of $550, or 1 percent, based on data about teacher salaries and other factors from the 2012 Digest of Education Statistics” (Education Week, 2012).
I wonder what will be the impetus that will move our country toward innovative practices that will prepare students for the future that lies ahead? Perhaps, carefully studying history will provide answers to this question. What has previously occurred that provided the motivation for systemic shifts in our education system? The initial idea of No Child Left Behind began somewhere. Since a great deal of the power to shift our current system has now been given to the States, policymakers at the State level rarely stay in office the necessary three to five years to positively affect a change, where does this leave us? Does it feel to you as if we have shifted into an automatic “cruise” mode?
What if …. news associations like CNN and Fox News reported daily on innovative practices that are happening in schools across our country? Families adore hearing about how the places they send their children each day are in the spotlight for something terrific. If the news capitalizes on innovation as a stellar approach, on a consistent basis, I imagine many will sit up and take notice. Ted Dintersmith’s book certainly has enough schools mentioned to last for almost a year of daily coverage. Is it true that Americans only tune in and watch the news to hear the latest and greatest tragedy, negative comment, problem, disaster, or politician arguing with each other? As a child, I sat and listened, year after year, to Walter Cronkite sharing the number of youths who were returning home each day in body bags from the Vietnam War. You bet that made an impact then and on the adult I am today. Could news reports, flashed across your screen, about innovative practices impact others in a positive way? What will occur that will shift current practices, in most schools across the United States, in order to prepare children for the future ahead of them?
This morning I have been reading the book, Start With Why – How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek. You’ve already read the book? Terrific! Since it was published in 2009, ten years ago, I would imagine many of those who selected it as one of our top ten Fall Focus books recommended it from the impact they felt in their own lives. I am only in the very beginning pages of the book, yet it has my wheels turning as to WHY educators seek out professional learning and collaboration with others.
I ask you the question to ponder and reflect upon, WHY do you seek out professional learning and collaborating with others?
You read books, attend conferences, listen to podcasts, spend some of your weekend at an EdCamp, travel far and wide to present your ideas and experiences with others, grab the recent edition of Education Week, Educational Leadership, or a journal published centered on your content area. You also participate on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or whatever the latest and greatest social media site that fits your learning. I am certain that most of you know a teacher down the hall who hasn’t read a book or joined any of the learning opportunities mentioned above. They might even laugh when you mention something you recently learned about during your favorite Twitter chat. Does that dissuade you? Not in the least bit!
So, I pose the question – Why is professional learning and collaborating with other so important to you?
I sincerely hope some of you who read this will jump onto the Twitter hashtag #BookCampPD, locate the question and provide your answer. I believe we can all learn from the reflective responses that are shared.
How fortunate we are as educators to have the opportunity on Saturday mornings to chat with others about our favorite topic and read passionate responses to posed questions. This morning, I was inspired by others during #LeadUpChat and #LeadLAP. I view it as a waterfall of insightful comments that rush over me as I try my best to keep up and yet have a sense the bright sunlight on my face from their caring tweets. As the graphic below shares, my thoughts are swept away into reflective moments that inspire a blog post like this one.
This morning, I posted a graphic by George Couros @GCouros about a culture of compliancy rather than quality learning, creativity and innovation. I began thinking about the changes in education and society, during the last fifty years, away from compliancy toward innovation. A light bulb flashed on in my mind when I realized that when I worked in a school or district setting that embraced my strong need to seek innovative approaches toward increasing student achievement, I flourished as a leader. On the other hand, when I spent time in a culture that required compliance, “do as I say,” be a good solider and “follow what we tell you” my frustrations boiled over.
These thoughts brought on additional reflection – “Did these compliancy settings stop me from being innovative?”
No, they didn’t.
Since student achievement soared, thanks to the amazing, dedicated educators who guided the children in all the settings, I am certain quality learning was taking place. I believe this took place, in part, from my never-ending modeling, leadership, and commitment that all students would be readers. I spoke of the frustration of being an innovator, yet, surrounded by those who sought compliance from me to follow long ago established rules. You have heard of the Bob Seger (1980) song, “Against the Wind”? As the words in the song share,
“Against the wind
I’m still running against the wind
I’m older now but still running against the wind
Well, I’m older now and still running
Against the wind.”
That is what it felt like in schools or districts where those who were supervisors sought compliancy and I quietly moved toward creativity and innovation. This is not to say that I don’t well understand their position of seeking a person who would listen carefully, return to their school and obediently follow their directives. After all, this is the leadership model that they had spent decades learning from and following; it was what they were most comfortable with. In my narrow-minded thinking, I would make it personal and convince myself it was about me. Oh my, I reflect now and see it was never about whether they did or didn’t like me. It certainly was about who I was as a person – independent, creative, innovative, willing to move whatever stone necessary to increase student achievement and prepare them for the, always changing, future that was ahead. Working in four different states, six districts, and eleven schools I found that when teachers were leading committees, setting the goals and in leadership positions, there was the greatest ownership toward doing their very best for children and increasing achievement. It created a sense of community that was unmatched in all of the other experiences.
I share these thoughts as I am certain there are many in supervisory roles who want “good soldiers” who will be compliant, never rock the boat, and follow directives. This would work great if we weren’t in times where the world around us is changing at the speed of light.
During the chats I spoke about, I received this tweet – “You are role model for “storm weathering” of all kinds, and sometimes when I am hanging onto the “light post” while the gust is blowing, you come to mind.” Statements like this one, warm my heart and confirm my commitment to continue to share my stories with others. I appreciate all of you more than words in a blog posting can say. Thank you!
When I was teaching in the classroom, I had this sign on my door. It was laminated, and I would fill in whatever book I was currently reading with a white board marker. I wanted my students to see that reading wasn’t just for LA class, it was something that I, as their music teacher, enjoyed too! I loved the conversations it sparked with my students, and they really would ask me about my book. Talk about great accountability – if I had the same book on there for too long, they would ask, “Ms. Yeh, is that a really long book or something?”
I’m not in the classroom anymore, but I still love reading! I was inspired by my friend Mari’s blog and, for the first time, kept track of my reading in 2018. I finished a total of 48 books (and started three more that I am getting close to finishing now in 2019). The nerd in me really wanted to get to a round number (50) or to one per week (52), but alas, I’ll have to settle for 48. Meanwhile, here are a couple of interesting stats about my reading:
I read 35 books for the first time, and 13 as re-reads (although one was by accident – I was a couple of chapters in, thinking it sounded really familiar when I realized I had read it a few years ago)
I read 5 professional books, 4 faith-based books, and the rest (39) were mostly YA novels or biographical novels.
I started getting into audiobooks for the first time. I still struggle to focus when listening to books, but I really enjoyed listening to books that I have previously read on audiobook. It brought a new dimension to my imagination of the story, and if I zoned out for a bit (which is not unusual), I could still track what was happening.
Overall, I really enjoy reading for pleasure, and it’s a great escape from my day-to-day life! Maybe I should read more professionally, but honestly, I do a lot of other professional reading through blogs, articles, etc. As I begin 2019, I don’t have any major goals for reading this year except to keep it up and continue tracking what I read. I do have quite a list of books related to refugees or migrants that I started in 2018, and I will probably continue to work through it in 2019.
One thing I am always on the lookout for is good YA novels, especially series! My favorite stories tend to be an adventure, fantasy, or historical fiction. If you have anything good to recommend – please let me know!
I do not come from a long line of teachers. I don’t even come from a long line of educated people. My mother was the first person in my family to earn a college degree and I am the first to earn a Master’s Degree in my family.
I do come from a long line of people who loved, valued, and believed in education though. Our values are transmitted in the smallest of actions. Maybe it’s not always what we model as much as where we place our attention.
My father was a truck driver and never attended college but he taught me to value education. When I went to kindergarten it was a huge deal. I received a new wardrobe called “school clothes” and I was not allowed to play in them! He made sure that I could write and do basic math before I even went to school so that I would be “ready”. School is an important place.
When I had low grades my dad fought tirelessly with the Dean to have me placed in advanced classes. At the end of the term when I did well we sat in her office until she was available because he wanted her to know how well his daughter had done. I can achieve.
When I rushed through homework with poor penmanship, my dad made me write it over. When I cut school to hang out with friends in high school he assured me that he could take time off of work and was happy to attend class with me. When I got a 97% on a Math final he told me that I was capable of 100%. Learning is serious business.
My mother taught me to value education as well. When my first grade teacher sent me a letter my mother framed it and hung it up in my bedroom. Teachers are important people.
My mother spoke to me about social issues and read me thought provoking pieces like Langston Hughs’ words: “What happens to a dream deferred…” and Martin Lutheran King’s speech, “I have a dream…”. She never told me to read but I did because I watched her read all of the time. Education gives you perspective.
I saw my mother struggle to support us while she went to school for years. She worked nights so that she could attend college classes during the day. I watched her better her financial status when she became a nurse. Education opens doors.
My grandparents taught me to value education through their stories. My grandmother grew up in poverty and thought that her only way out was by working multiple jobs. She always told me that her only regret in life was not knowing what she could have become. My grandfather’s aspirations of being a doctor died in his youth when he left college because he couldn’t keep up with night school and his construction job. Education makes dreams come true.
I earned a Master’s Degree in Education and began teaching high school as a single mother of four children at 38 years old. Becoming a teacher was not an easy path for me. I chose education because when I had the opportunity to start over I wanted to dedicate the rest of my working life to a cause that I cared about. It’s never too late to connect with your purpose. I have a deep respect for educators and I’m proud to be one. I believe that education opens doors to connect students with their purpose.
About the Author: Nicole Biscotti, M. Ed. is proud to be an educator who is passionate about students having the opportunity to develop their unique talents. The most inspiring part of her work is guiding student leaders. Follow her on Twitter and check out her YouTube Channel to see some of the great things that her Student Ambassadors are doing.
Is that you I see reaching for a holiday gift card because you’re unsure of what to get someone this year? May I please offer you a different possibility for that relative or friend who you find challenging to pick out a perfect gift? It is quite easy! Just walk your snow boots over to a different area of the store that has cards – in the stationary section – a holiday card! Hold onto that card for a minute while I explain the details.
If you are reading this, chances are very good that you’re an educator, correct? I am also going to assume that your strong moral value of teaching children, caring about the welfare of others, and giving, is a trait you share with that loved one or friend. In fact, without the guidance of that person, you were about you purchase a gift card for, you might not be in the field of education at all. My marvelous mother lived to be 95. Perhaps you have a grandparent or family member who is also older? When her birthday rolled around, or the holidays, I wanted so much to buy her the perfect gift to show her how much I appreciated her. My challenge was, she had everything she could possibly need or want. What could I possibly get for her? This is where my idea begins!
Do you still have the holiday card in your hand? Terrific! Within that card, you could write about the gift you are going to donate in their name. Whatever amount you were going to spend on a gift card, write a check to a school, that is important to you, and request that they purchase books for students. Books in the hands of children are something that continues to give throughout their lives as it builds a solid foundation for them to grow on. When your friend or relative reads your message about donating books for children I would imagine a warm glow and broad smile will be easily observed.
Perhaps you would like to donate specific books? Recently, the International Literacy Association Young Author Choices for Reading and the Children’s Choice 2018 Reading List were shared. You may locate the perfect holiday book on one of these sites. If you are already a teacher, you might find the Scholastic one dollar books of interest. For a dollar a book, you could place many in the hands of students! Barnes and Noble also offer a Holiday Book Drive and last year they donated 1.6 million books to 650 charities – see store for details.
Since I joined Twitter in March of 2012, almost six years ago, my understanding of its “ripple effect” is still growing. Years ago, when I would try to encourage my colleagues to join as my enthusiasm was like going outside on a beautiful, spring day, after months of a cold Minnesota winter, I was met with resistance. Some would say, “Oh, Twitter … yeah … that’s where teachers send each other tweets about how wonderful they are.” Or, very often, “I would like to try it, but I just don’t have the time.” These comments didn’t dissuade me but made me feel sorry that they wouldn’t enjoy the tremendous professional learning that was taking place there each day.
Fast forward six years, and I certainly see the daily influence passionate educators have for one another. What is so interesting is that you may not even ever realize your impact on others. During a chat, you quickly post a tweet, sharing your thoughts, and overtime, hundreds might read and connect with it. This happened to me recently when Bridget Gengler @BridgetGengler shared a blog posting she had written. Extraordinary things can happen, as she shared in her blog, from one idea, shared during a chat. What is most important is the impact and change that occurred with her students from this graphic by William Arthur Ward. I was thrilled when she agreed to share her blog post on our https://bookcamppd.com/blog-posts/ site. What an amazing person she is!
After moderating the #BookCampPD chat for almost two years, I also lean back and reflect on observing the shifts that take place, overtime, as educators continue their use of Twitter. A person might start out with the tremendously helpful chat, #NT2T on Saturday mornings at 9:00 EST, and move to be a guest moderator, leading their own chat, diving into writing blog posts, creating a podcast or writing a book. What amazing lead learners they are!
As I have always loved being an innovator, pushing the comfort zone of those in education, I wonder how Twitter will evolve over time. When I began in education, we didn’t have computers, certainly, Twitter didn’t exist, there weren’t any blog posts, podcasts and very few books were being written by those who are daily involved with educating children. What will come next? How can we help each other grow, be supportive of “failing forward,” and jump into new ideas, such as @Flipgrid, that will shift learning? One thing I am sure of …. we are #StrongerTogether. Many thanks to all those who share their passion for helping others each day on Twitter.
A guest blog post by Bridget Gengler @BridgetGengler
Back in the beginning of October I joined the #BeKindEDU chat. That particular evening the chat’s focus was gratitude. Meredith Johnson from #BookCampPD posted the following quote from William Arthur Ward – “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving , turn routine jobs into joy and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” I decided to begin my gratitude movement in my class with this quote during our morning meetings that week.
On Monday morning as we sat down for our morning meeting, I introduced the whole concept of gratitude. I asked my students what gratitude meant to them. We had to begin the discussion with the meaning of gratitude as many did not know. I shared with them my daily routine of gratitude and how I always send a message to someone different each morning and express my gratitude towards them. I wanted them to understand how important it is to express how thankful you are for what you have and also how giving and expressing gratitude can also create joy in you, the giver.
Then I asked them to share what they thought the quote by Ward meant. This is what one girl said- “Gratitude changes an ordinary day into a great day and then it makes you feel happy because you can make someone’s day.” My hope was that they would start to understand the intrinsic feeling one gets from expressing goodness and thankfulness to others. With those thoughts in mind, I had them share something or someone they were grateful for and why. I had them write it down. I collected all the notes of gratitude and every morning meeting for the rest of the week I read some of the notes. Every morning the students looked forward to hearing what their classmates were thankful for. They looked forward to this new routine of gratitude notes. We continued this practice for the next couple of weeks. Gradually the notes turned into letters. I asked them to write letters to anyone with whom they felt compelled to share their gratitude. I also had them write a letter of gratitude to a Veteran for Veterans Day. All of those letters were handed out to Veterans.
Finally came the week before Thanksgiving. At the beginning of the week I told them that we were going to have a gratitude celebration on Friday with pumpkin pie and a gratitude circle. Each student randomly picked a name of another student in the class. Once they had the name of that person, I told them that their challenge and task was to spread gratitude to this person by making them a gift and card or letter. The next morning I put out a whole bunch of supplies and gave them time to make their gifts and cards. I stressed how much more rewarding it would be to try to keep it a secret until Friday and also really create something from the heart. As I walked around, observed and listened to them talk I could feel the excitement and genuine care that each student was taking in creating something for their classmate. They wanted to make something special and they showed that in their actions and words. The pride I felt on that day was like no other. When I thought about this activity I was not sure how serious that they would take it. But as I watched, they did not let me down. As they finished their creations, they kept them hidden in decorated gift bags that we put away until Friday. The rest of the week was a buzz of enthusiasm in anticipation for our Gratitude Circle on Friday.
When Friday afternoon came the students sat in the same circle that we sit in for morning meeting but this time it was our Gratitude Circle. I started the circle by placing a an empty wreath in the middle. I told them we were going to fill this wreath with leaves of gratitude. We went around the circle and I had everyone share one thing with which they were grateful. We wrote it down and they each got a chance to add their leaf to the wreath. They loved listening to all the things that everyone was grateful for.
After that, I passed out the bags that they were going to give out. Excitement filled the room! I told them that they would share who they picked and as they give the gift to that person share one reason why they are grateful for him/her. Everyone was instructed to hold off on opening their bags until the end so we could give hear and see everyone share their gratitude. I started with a volunteer and he stood up, shared who he picked, walked over to that person and as he gave the bag to her, he told her why he was grateful for her. This routine was followed until all children had a bag. You could have heard a pin drop as each child shared. They all listened intently to each other and enjoyed what everyone had to share. There was genuine gratitude and joy shown to each other. Each student loved being appreciated and each student enjoyed expressing gratitude.
My heart was exploding with joy as I observed with a huge smile on my face and tears in my eyes. They got it! All the time and talk about gratitude was worth it! They understood! They understood the joy and the blessing that gratitude brings.
They saw my happiness and even questioned why I was happy.
I told them ” because now you all see what I have been talking about. All the times I share how I am so thankful and how important it is to verbalize it. Once we do that, not only does it brings joy to others, but it ignites the fire inside of us – it leads to smiles, joy and positivity.
It did not end there- after they were done, I told them that I had something for them. I gave them each a card with a short personalized letter. I realized that some of them had never received a card before- they did not even know how to open it. With the help of each other, they found their letter inside the card and they all began to read their letters.
I could hear some of the conversations- ” I am going to hang this in my room.”
“What does your letter say?” “Mine says this.”
One little girl who tends to be difficult to reach sometimes and doesn’t always express herself, said to her friend, ” I love mine!” Then she looked at me and said ” Thank you, Mrs. G. Thanks for being a great teacher.”
I do not need affirmation but it is great to feel the gratitude. Exactly what I had been teaching them and trying to get them to understand came back to me. Oh, how my heart was full that day!
This day was by far one of the best days in my 23 years of teaching. There was so many times in previous years when I wanted to do this but didn’t know if I should take the time. YES! Take the time!
The year has started out difficult for me with a grade change and all the demands for academics and testing .
But as educators we can not forget that we are teaching children. They need to feel the love. They need to feel the gratitude. They need to know that others care. They also need to learn how to give the gratitude, care and love. We have to take the time to allow these moments to happen. These are the moments that they will remember and carry with them.
On this day each child was honored. Each child felt important. Each child knew that he or she mattered. That is what is important!!!