From the Principal’s Pen- November 2018
Jennifer McGee, Principal of Atwood Primary School
After my grandmother passed away, I had the chance to read her diary. It was such a personal glimpse into what mattered to her. What was the most striking to me, about the words I read, was her very evident daily gratitude. When I spoke at her funeral, I mentioned this. And, more importantly, the things she was grateful for were not the big things; they were the little things.
One particular passage that stands out to me was about her pillow. She wrote how lovely it was to have a comfortable pillow to sleep on each night. As she laid her head on her pillow to sleep, she said she never failed to remember the good fortune she had to have a comfy place to rest her head, as many in the world did not.
November is the month of gratitude. Thanksgiving generally begins with my own family wrapping around the table, reluctantly and bashfully, awkwardly sharing with one another what we are grateful for. It’s an annual event. But, seriously, is that enough?
According to author and psychotherapist, Amy Morin, there are incredible benefits for daily gratitude.
- Gratitude opens the door to healthier relationships.
- Gratitude improves physical health.
- Gratitude improves psychological health.
- Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
- Grateful people sleep better.
- Gratitude improves mental strength.
- Gratitude improves self-esteem.
So with all of these great benefits brought forth through gratitude, how can we be more deliberate about expressing our own daily gratitude and ensuring that we pass this on to our children?
I think there are very simple things we can do each day to teach our children to be thoughtful and grateful little human beings on the planet. First and foremost, we can teach our children to say “thank you”. On the very first day of school, I always tell the children they must say “thank you” as they pass through the breakfast and lunch lines. The small things truly are the big things, and when children say “thank you”, we all notice. The secret is real; when children put positive energy (like gratitude) out into the universe, they get it back. Saying “thank you” matters.
Another wonderful way to intentionally teach children to be grateful is to teach them to help others. To this day, when my adult children call me to say they are having a difficult day, I ask this question: “What have you done for someone else today?” Doing for others instills an inner peace and a quiet gratitude. It can be something so small…bringing a co-worker an unexpected coffee or muffin…or writing a tiny note and placing it on the desk of a friend. Inevitably, when you deliberately do something for another, you are reminded of the fact that each moment delivers you a choice for how you spend that moment….and the result is often gratitude. Teach your children early and often that doing unto others is how we roll!
Another easy way to instill gratitude in our children is to spin how we phrase things to our children. Rather than saying “We have to go to your soccer practice,” how about saying, “We GET to go to your soccer practice now.” This is such a small shift, but the meaning holds great weight! I am often reminded, as I watch a very close relative of mine fight stage 4 cancer, that she would give ANYTHING to “get” to do the things that I may feel I “have” to do…go grocery shopping, go to ball games, run to meetings, host events. Rephrasing our “to do” lists and reminding our children that we are fortunate to “get” to do these things, instills a subtle feeling of gratefulness.
My final bit of advice is to give children chores. This may sound like a strange way to teach gratitude; however, introducing children to the fact that “effort results in opportunity” is a tangible way to teach children to be grateful for hard work. An example of this would be taking a vacation. This summer when we were on vacation, I reminded my children that if not for working hard, we would not be able to enjoy the beautiful location where we were vacationing. It’s never too soon to introduce children to little tasks (making beds, folding laundry, putting toys in bins) and rewarding them for completing those tasks. Again, this is a gentle way to teach children to be grateful for the jobs in front of them because hard work equals wonderful rewards. And for these things, we are grateful.
I wish all of our Atwood families a wonderful season filled with gratitude for the simple things we all “get” to do. We are grateful that we “get” the opportunity to teach your children. It’s a gift.
Jenny McGee, Principal
Dates to Note in November:
November 9 and November 12: No School/ Teacher In-service and Veteran’s Day
November 21 – 23: No School/ Thanksgiving Break