It’s the season for gratefulness, so we wanted to take the time today to address some simple ways you can focus on gratitude in your professional practice, while exploring some of the benefits it can have. In fact, research has shown that gratitude can increase your well-being in a number of different ways, and that it supports healthy relationships, optimism and can even lead to increased exercising and fewer visits to the doctor.
These benefits are greatest when gratitude is genuinely expressed and authentic in nature, which is a clear sign of emotional maturity and an understanding of how our emotional state can impact those around us.
With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at four ways you can infuse gratitude into your daily professional practice.
1.) Be Proactive With Gratitude
Express Gratitude in the Moment
Often times we notice something that someone does, and are immediately struck with some level of emotional appreciation for the act, either because it directly impacts us or because it has a profound impact on someone else.
Yet, how often do we take advantage of these moments to express our appreciation? We think, “I’ll let them know later,” or “They must already know what that meant to me, or to the person it impacted.”
And then time passes, and with it, the feeling of appreciation diminishes and loses the value of genuinely expressed gratitude in the moment. Too often, we never tell the person at all, or when we do, the expression of gratitude has lost its shine and it feels forced.
The next time you witness a student do something that you appreciate, let them know why and consider shooting a quick email or text to their parents so they can know too. When a colleague does something for you or someone else that you appreciate be sure to pass along the gratefulness in the moment or shortly after it takes place.
Being proactive with gratitude, and being aware of the things that make us grateful, is the easiest way to make sure we are infusing our lives with gratitude and telling others when they have done something special, even if it’s simple.
2.) Recognize Positive Developments
Take Time to Identify Positive Things Happening
This time of year can be stressful, as we prepare for the holidays, and it can be hard to remember to look at the developments that are positive in schools and classrooms. We often lose site of the things we are executing well and instead focus on the stress associated with an increased amount of work, or the aspects of our lives that aren’t going well.
It’s pretty simple. Take time in your daily life to identify the positives you are experiencing, where the source of that positivity comes from and either affirm gratitude if it is something that can’t be attributed to an individual, or pass along gratitude where it is due.
In other words, as an educator, you are in a profession that is pivotal in the creation of tomorrow, and it doesn’t matter how you spin it, that’s special.
The more we identify the areas of our life that have a positive impact on our well-being, the more likely we are to be cognizant of these moments and areas of life where we are being positively impacted, thereby cultivating gratitude for the sources where this positivity originates.
3.) Develop A Reflective Practice
Make Time to Reflect
This strategy goes hand-in-hand with taking time to notice positivity.
Whether it’s journaling or making time to take a walk, developing a reflective practice -- one that allows to put our thoughts into disseminable information -- is key to many other parts of life other than the development of gratitude.
However, when reflection is used in tandem with gratitude identification, expressing that gratitude becomes second-nature.
Reflection is the backbone of modern pedagogy. When we reflect we’re not only looking at the end result, but we’re looking at what’s happening every day also, and ensuring that the end result is an informed process built on day-to-day reflection and the changes that reflection necessitates.
This is true for assessment as much as it is true for our personal lives, and the personal lives of our students. How are you taking time every day to reflect on how your decisions impact the individual you are? How are your students developing this level of emotional maturity as well? Where does gratitude fit in, and how are you and your students being proactive about gratitude?
4.) Use Radical Listening
Listening Instead of Hearing
Radical listening is the practice of listening in a radically new way. Instead of listening and formulating a response while listening, radical listening tasks the listener to truly listen to what someone is saying to them without approaching a response with preconceived notions.
Sometimes, when we listen to someone we immediately identify an area of contrast and associate that contrast with the word “but,” which in turn comes out in our response, and immediately rejects the validity of what someone has said. Radical listening asks you to consider contrast with the word “and,” which essentially just means you have more to add to what someone has said to you.
In other words, one of the supreme joys of being human is that each and every one of us are innately unique from one another. The value of this uniqueness cannot be understated. Unfortunately, with this uniqueness comes opinion and while opinion is necessary, it often causes conflict because as humans we want the people we love and appreciate to identify with our values. This is where radical listening comes in.
In other words, can you leverage the concept of a hub where every student in your school or classroom is likely to end up for one reason or another at some point during the day/learning? For example, where do you keep the classroom materials that your students use on a daily basis? Are they all in one area where students are likely to bump into one another and spark conversation on why they are using a particular item?
When we choose to listen to individuals through this filter -- that filter being the fact that each individual is entitled to their uniqueness, and that said uniqueness can even add value to our lives -- we are choosing to listen to individuals with the word “and” as the main motivator to our responses.
How does radical listening breed gratitude? It’s quite simple really. When we genuinely listen to someone and provide a response that isn’t motivated by contrast, we are taking the time to not only hear them, but listen to them, which in turn creates empathy. It also helps us approach our responses with humility, and empathy and humility are some of the defining pillars of gratitude.
Ultimately, radical listening not only helps us develop gratitude for those we are listening to, it also helps others recognize that gratitude for their relationship with us as well, and relationships are built on this type of mutual respect and understanding.
The impact of authentic and genuine gratitude expression is palpable in our lives. When we either receive this type of appreciation from others, or express it ourselves, we feel immediately full and happy. As such, cultivating gratitude both as a personal expression, and as a means to healthy relationship building, is important.
Learning the ways we can not only do this in our lives, but encourage it in the lives of our students as well, will lead to happier classrooms and schools, and less stress as we identify positivity along the way.