…reflecting on lessons of gratitude and happiness by Stacey James McAdoo…
🎵 I wish that I could have this moment for life
🎵 I wish that I could have this moment for life For life, for life 🎵 -Nicki Minaj
As we prepare to return to school and work, let us continue to carry gratitude with us in the days ahead. The number of lessons and skills teachers teach far exceeds the number of days spent in the classroom (face to face, remotely, or otherwise). Like most educators, I have favorite lessons that I love teaching for various reasons. Hands down, one of my favorites is my Gratitude Project. This multi-week unit includes the tweaking of Soul Pancake’s An Experiment in Gratitude and Random Acts of Kindness.
We all know that the holidays can be rough for a lot of people. But what may not be such common knowledge is that according to several reports and surveys, holidays or not, Americans are some of the most unhappy people in the world – even when we have a strong economy and low crime rates. So teaching my students about the importance of showing gratitude not only makes me happy, but it also helps to build community and strengthen relationships, which ultimately helps to improve society.
The Gratitude Project that I assign isn’t about exerting toxic positivity; instead, it’s about finding an anchor and exercising self-care. This assignment may honestly be one of the most important lessons I teach because psychologists have scientifically proven that one of the most significant contributing factors to our overall happiness and well-being comes from how much gratitude we have AND show. The key is to express it. To demonstrate it.
There’s a ton of research out there that proves that experience, not things, are what make us happy. And when it comes down to it, the experience and the journey is really what learning is all about. For this project, I have my students perform, document, and reflect upon random acts of kindness for a certain period of time. I also have them write a letter of gratitude to someone and then require them to verbally read it to the individual. I wish you could be in the classroom to feel the love and excitement that envelopes us as the students call their friends, family, or loved ones to read their letters to them…in front of us…on speaker… or when they play the videos. Yeah, this is definitely my favorite time of the school year.
If you haven’t seen SoulPancake’s An Experiment in Gratitude, used resources from randomactsofkindness.org or taken Yale’s free ten-week course, The Science of Well-Being by Psychology Professor Dr. Laurie Santos (which is actually starting up again this week), I highly recommend them all! Click the hyperlinks above. You won’t regret it. In fact, you’ll be happy that you did.
*Stacey James McAdoo, the 2019 Arkansas Teacher of the Year (affectionately referred to as 2019ATOY), is the sponsor of the spoken word collective called Writeous Poets from Little Rock, Arkansas. For seventeen years she served as an Oral Communications instructor and AVID Coordinator at the historic Little Rock Central High School. She currently teaches future teachers in the Excel program and is the lead Secondary Novice Teacher Mentor for the Little Rock School District where she continues to be the living embodiment of her ATOY platform of using passion and poetry to close the opportunity gap.*