by Darren Spyksma, SCSBC Director of Learning ◊
God designed humans to be interdependent. He also designed humans to benefit from showing gratitude for the positive impact of God, others, and nature. Social science research confirms this. Gratitude makes us better, more faithful human beings.
For Christians, the ability to live and maintain a gratitude-filled life comes from fidelity to and trust in a Creator. As we acknowledge, embrace, and deepen our understanding of and relationship to our Creator and Redeemer, we naturally feel an outpouring of awe and gratitude. Is it possible that what’s holding you back from a life of gratitude is not your circumstances, but rather forgetting who each human being is in the eyes of God?
The pursuit of a “gratitude competency” is an invitation to filter all competency development through the lens of trust in God. It is also an invitation to align a provincial curriculum focused on competency development with a Christian school’s vision for learning. By seeing gratitude as a natural outflowing of staff and classroom practice, life at school focuses on the interdependence of healthy community, the social unit of meaning. By regularly centring practices on gratitude, the entire community becomes oriented outside of self and focuses on the call to love God, neighbour, and therefore, creation.
The science supports it,1 Jesus demonstrates it,2 and yet we all know that living a life of gratitude is hard. Seeing gratitude as a competency invites staff and students into a more faithful way of being a community. Imagine if your students, staff, parents, and alumni are known in your community for their gratitude-filled countenance. Is there a better contribution to the common good? Interested in developing a community of gratitude in your city? Consider investing time in these key areas.
- Create a prayer and gratitude wall in a prominent place near the school’s entrance. Encourage students, staff, and parents to post prayers and thanksgiving as they come and go from the building.
- Ensure gratitude plays a prominent role in social media posts, newsletters, annual general meetings, and other public communication.
- Invite ideas from parents, staff, and students on “Thankful Thursdays.”
- Share learning stories with the broader community including testimonials from staff and students about what they are thankful for as they engage in Christian Deeper Learning initiatives.
- Include an opportunity for mutual gratitude during donor visits.
- Look for opportunities to show gratitude to the broader community by thanking tournament organizers and city employees who support the infrastructure in your community.
- Encourage personal, specific expressions of gratitude as part of parent-teacher conferences and communications of learning.
- Participate in regular gratitude practices as a staff, such as secret gratitude partners (using a random name selector, staff are assigned a person to get to know or connect with over a set amount of time. At the end of the time, participants will be invited to share a specific point of gratitude regarding one aspect of what the team member brings to the broader school community).
- When parents share gratitude to an administrator about a teacher, encourage that parent to take the message directly to the teacher.
- As an administrator, plan for a culture of gratitude by developing a system for the leadership team to record specific moments of gratitude that can be shared by the team to board, staff, and community.
Make a gratitude journal a part of a teacher growth plan.
- Handwrite thank-you notes and “thinking of you” letters to staff, families, and community members.
- Establish a gratitude jar and invite students to write down a story of gratitude from a moment in school during the week. Then share the content of the jars on Friday afternoon as part of a closing circle.
- Encourage and remind students to thank their partners at the end of collaborative work before returning to their individual learning areas.
- Model gratitude journals as part of the daily or weekly rhythms in the classroom.
- Model and support prayer as an act of gratitude to God in the learning environment.
- Show gratitude to students when you notice them having a positive impact on the learning environment, but aim to do it privately, being careful with public praise that can be seen as manipulative.
- Look for the opportunity to step aside and allow students to shine as positive contributors and leaders in the classroom.
- Spend time with the elderly and help students see value in a life well-lived.
Practices of gratitude inherently support the development of reflective thinking and faith. A life of gratitude puts us into a professional sweet spot, where we get to exclaim with a friend of mine, Dave Mulder, “We get to do this!” Most importantly, a life of gratitude can reorder our learning story, pointing students away from learning as an individual achievement to learning as an interdependent act of communal faithfulness, a natural outflowing of our commitment to see all of life as worship and response to an amazing and faithful God.
2. Luke 24:13-32, John 6:1-14