Thursday, November 20, 2008

A Habit of Gratitude

I have been thinking about rituals; about their power and import. I've also been thinking about gratitude. And so. I want to tell you about a classroom ritual I have created.

I believe that your first actions set the tone for the entire day. If I am right, then we must be intentional with each new morning we're given. In Lawsonland we begin our day with a song, a bit of physical affection, a kind word, and time to ponder and reflect. Not a bad way to start the day, is it? Here's how we do it:

Every morning I greet my second graders at the door with a hug and a song. I mean it. I stand in the hall by our door, sing the "Good Morning Song", look each child in the eye, and hug him or her. Believe it or not, I don't even feel silly when other adults pass by. We all have the morning routine down pat. My second graders pile in the door like puppies, chattering among themselves as they unpack, make their lunch choices, and get out their Brain Book. It gets quiet pretty quickly, though, because I always have a writing prompt on the board. The students read it, take a moment to think about it, then they write.

How great is that?
Each day this week my students have written a list of ten things for which they are grateful. Every morning brings a new list. No repeats. I make a list, too. Every morning. Before we head to morning meeting, we take turns calling out items so I can create a class list, which stays on the board all day long. Sometimes I find other thoughts squeezed in between the lines, written with a suspiciously wobbly hand. It's as though some student just could not keep their thanks to themselves.
Today I asked my class to focus their list on small things. Things they may never have thought to be thankful for. Things like Chapstick, zippers, and character band-aids. Here's a peek at today's class list: "my stripey toe socks, friends who share gloves, pencils that just got sharpened, the lotion you brought for us to use whenever we want to, playing chase, Tootsie Pops, squashy pillows, no indoor recess, chicken patty day, firetrucks - the red ones, not the green ones..."

They get it. Oh, they get it. Please, God, let them keep it.
An attitude of gratitude. That's what I am trying to teach. Mindfulness. A full and thankful heart. An awareness of our blessings. I spend my days trying to light fires that will burn their entire lives. Gratefulness. What better habit could I teach?

Like most people, my thoughts turn to gratitude at this time of year. Every day for the next ten days, I plan to post about gratitude. I hope you'll join me.

Gratitude tattoo by Fancy Hunt. Tootsie Pops by ktpupp. Sharpened pencils by cyoachim. Stripey socks by luna.nik.


Tabby @ ♥I Choose Bliss♥ said...

I should so be asleep, but I just had to see if you had posted something and WOW! I LOVE It! I think what you're doing with your kids is simply awesome! I will definitely join you for the gratitude journal these next ten days!

spread your wings said...

you have got to be the best teacher ever. i wish every child could have a teacher who cares as much as you do

vanessaann said...

wow, what a great idea. and what a great example you are setting for you students! I wish I had had a teacher like that. and i love the picture of the pencils!

Queen of the Armchair aka dzintrastitcheries said...

Great idea Relyn!!!I have a Gratitude Journal and try to write 5 things in a day that I am grateful for...makes for good reading later on.I only ever write positives in it...Great idea for the students. Dzintra

Wendy said...

Wow, I never had a teacher like you. Is it too late for me to go back and repeat 2nd grade??

What you're doing is so fabulous... you're in a great position to influence so many lives, like a rock thrown into a pond.

Ripple on, girl!

JUST ME said...


This is an awesome post. Thank you for being you and teaching our kids today how to be GREAT kids. WE should of had more teachers like you when we were growing up.

I know this may not be a simple gratitude, BUT I am totally greatfull that my house might be selling finally. It's contingent right now pending paperwork.

I am really blessed and grateful.

Thank you,


Christina said...

That is not a bad idea! I may try the 10 days of gratefulness. I might try the singing of the good morning song, also. lol So sweet!

Patti said...

I want to be in YOUR class!!! You are the epitome of what a teacher should be! Bravo Relyn!

Suvarna said...

Thank you for this beautiful gift. I wish that more children could have the kind of thoughtful, caring, mindful educational experience you are giving your students. What a wonderful teacher you are.

karey m. said...

i would be thrilled if someday you were my girlies' teacher.


this was lovely. can you imagine the magical moments of calm you're giving them? i can. well done.

veronica said...

your students are so lucky to have you as a positive influence in their lives.

Jaime said...

Dear Relyn...what a gift you are.

I have had a tough has tested my gratitude, but as I read this post, I noticed that when I got to the end I was sitting here with the biggest smile planted on my face, and I was so clearly aware of all the things I have in my life that I am so so grateful for.

Thank you for this beautiful beautiful post...just what I needed today. Really.

Love you tons

Ragamuffin Gal said...

Relyn ~ what a truely wonderful post. I love it and I love that picture of little you. I see a lot of Sloane in that little Miss. Love you, Katie

My Castle in Spain said...

Dear Relyn,

you know what i was thinking ? every teacher should read your blog!
this is such a wonderful ritual and it works ! this is great...

keep up with the good work

i wish my teachers would have been more like you

dutchbaby said...

Okay that's it! My entire family is enrolling in your class next fall, no matter what grade!

I have a "gratitude and dreams" party almost every year. The guests write down what they were grateful for in the past year and what their dreams are for the coming year. We have fun reading the old entries that I keep in a big binder.

Oldies, but Goodies