Dear Blake Community,
To help encourage conversations about gratitude, our topic/question of the week is: Although it has been found to be good when one often expresses gratitude by - for example - saying "I am thankful for...", it seems to have a more personal impact to often express gratitude by saying "I am thankful to you for...".
As we conclude these busy two days before the Thanksgiving holiday/break, I hope that everyone has been able to find some to breathe a bit. I definitely have felt the impact of an increased 'pace' and am looking forward to a stretch of extended time with Katie and the kids. After an early dinner out Friday evening as a family, Saturday was spent putting the garden to bed, raking leaves, and getting some chores down. Owen and I had a wonderful Sunday afternoon at the Patriots game - Owen's love for sports events is something to behold!
Last week Kelly Campbell, Jeff Marsden, and I attended a half-day workshop with Lee Teitel, the Faculty Director of the School Leadership Program at Harvard's Graduate School of Education. The topic of his workshop was entitled, 'Surviving and Thriving as a Leader: A Focus on the Personal' with the aim of being effective in one's work while also finding satisfaction and joy in the work. I certainly love my job and the work that we are doing for our students, but finding that 'balance' is certainly a struggle that I encounter. A key component of Teitel's message touched on Carol Dweck's work with mindsets - a subject near and dear to my own belief system. The timing of this workshop was quite serendipitous, as Susan Bycoff and I held a workshop on Wednesday with parents - 'Mathematics, MCAS, and Mindsets'. Whatever the goal may be for all of us (academic, social, personal, etc.), having a growth mindset is critical. Understanding that growth is a process, and not a finite destination, that is continually evolving is critical and this applies to all elements of learning. Learning takes practice, and practice helps to form the habits of growth we want to acquire: "Habit is a cable; we weave a thread of it each day, and at last we cannot break it." - Horace Mann
I look forward to sharing this work with staff, students, and community in the future, but what is really resonating with me most right now is the connection that exists amongst reflection, relationships, and gratitude. This afternoon we will be gathering as a school at our annual Celebration of Voice assembly to take time for these elements - to reflect together, build our relationships, and express gratitude as a community. These elements do not just happen and need to be practiced. I am sharing a few posts below that support the idea of practicing gratitude (supporting its importance as well as some specific strategies to try)...
Gratitude Builds Character and Health
by Maurice Elias in Edutopia
Elias's post highlights the benefits of gratitude for all and articulates a nice distinction between gratitude and praise.
"For teachers, the message is clear: Don't be stingy with your appreciation. Show gratitude for things you "expect" to happen, such as children putting their things where they are supposed to, paying attention, sitting relatively quietly, asking good questions, helping classmates, turning in their homework on time, reading or speaking clearly in class. You will find that these actions will become much more contagious and your students will feel better about themselves and being in school. Note that expressions of gratitude are not the same as praise. They are personal statements from you to your students saying how their actions help you and/or the class in some tangible way."
Gratitude: A Powerful Tool for Your Classroom
by Owen Griffith in Edutopia
Within this post the specific strategy of journaling is provided as a concrete strategy for practicing gratitude.
"I challenge you to try it yourself and see how it works. My friends who have written a daily gratitude journal for at least two weeks speak positively of the experience. Gratitude has transformed many lives. It is true that our focus can stimulate growth. If I focus on the good and I am grateful, more comes into my life. Conversely, if I complain and focus on the negative, more of that is drawn into my life. For me, the fruit of the focus on gratitude is happiness."
November 19, 1957: Albert Camus’s Beautiful Letter of Gratitude to His Childhood Teacher After Winning the Nobel Prize
by Maria Popova
This is a quick read and well worth it - a snapshot of Albert Camus's letter to his teacher expressing/practicing his gratitude to one of his teachers. It reminds me that it is never too late to express our thanks.
"...it gives me the opportunity to tell you what you have been and still are for me, and to assure you that your efforts, your work, and the generous heart you put into it still live in one of your little schoolboys who, despite the years, has never stopped being your grateful pupil. I embrace you with all my heart."
This 'work' of practicing gratitude is a certainly one that I know I can find growth - not necessarily in the area of feeling thankful, but taking it to the next level of actual recognition and articulation of the gratitude to others. So I want to make sure that I do just that - express my gratitude. I have shared this sentiment the past few years and would be remiss if I did not share it each year. The time of Thanksgiving is one that has held greater significance for our family as it is an 'anniversary of sorts' of the accident I had while running five years ago. Katie and I are forever grateful for the response of our home and Blake/Medfield communities for the care and support that was expressed. Thank you. I am incredibly fortunate to work in a community of students, educators, and parents that have allowed me to grow while also caring for my family. Thank you. I hope to practice and carry my gratitude forward, and these words from President Kennedy are ones worth thinking about each year: "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."
With gratitude on our minds as the holiday season begins, it is equally important to recognize and remember that this time of year can be a particularly stressful and emotional one for students and adults. Personal situations, the loss of loved ones, or memories can bring forth many emotions, so please be sure to look out for one another and also rely on the community for support. Although I wish I could, I know it is not realistic for me to have the opportunity to personally wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving before Tuesday afternoon. So, Happy Thanksgiving. I am incredibly grateful to be a part of the Blake community and believe we are making a difference.
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