If you’re anything like me, I start to feel extremely overwhelmed about a month and a half into the school year. I spend my summers off planning, prepping, catching up on sleep, and dreaming about how amazing the next school year will be.
That rush and optimism last the first six weeks or so, then all of a sudden the wave of exhaustion hits and I’m just as tired and stressed as I was the previous year.
Throughout my career as a teacher, I’ve found this cycle pretty standard, but there are some strategies I’ve discovered to help keep my sanity.
One of these is gratitude, which I find incredibly helpful.
If you haven’t already clicked off the page, you’re probably considering doing so about now, thinking all this talk about gratitude may be a bit too “woo” for you. Believe me, I get it. I’m pretty un-woo (yes, that’s a very scientific term).
I spent several years rolling my eyes when people talked about gratitude, skipping over the podcast episodes I subscribe to which talked about gratitude, and all around just avoided it as a ridiculous concept pushed by hippies with no jobs.
Yes, I am secretly an angry, 1970s style, American father living in the body of a 30-something, blonde, Canadian woman.
Anyway, back to gratitude. Here are some of the biggest reasons why you need to start incorporating more gratitude in your life, and how it can improve your life as a teacher.
It keeps things in perspective
When you develop a gratitude practice, I find it deeply helps to not blow things out of proportion.
Waking up and being thankful for your family, shelter, clean water, and so on, makes you realize that the broken coffee maker in the staff room really isn’t that big of a deal.
It also really helps to recognize and be cognizant of what others are going through. Recognizing all that you have and being grateful for it will remind you to keep in mind that student who just lost her father, or the coworker who cannot use his legs.
It makes you happier
Making the time to recognize how many things we have to be thankful for innately makes us happier.
This just makes sense. If you think about all the wonderful things going on in your life and don’t feel happier, even if only slightly, you’re not doing it right!
I get very bad seasonal depression, and it’s basically winter for eight months of the year here. Whenever I feel miserable waking up in the pitch black, trekking through -40 degrees, and leaving work again in the dark, I remind myself of all the wonderful things and people in my life. If it still doesn’t work, I remind myself of the small things in life that make me happy and which I’m grateful for. Things like happy puppies, iced lattes, and the smell of the ocean.
Give it a try, it really helps!
It will make you more patient
This point ties in directly with giving you more perspective. When you see the big picture and take the time to focus on the great things in life you have, it naturally causes you to care less about the minor things which annoy you.
I used to get stressed about every little thing. Bus running late? I’m going to get fired! Have a cold? I’m going to die! Lesson bombed? The students will never graduate!
Now, I’m able to take a step back and realise it’s just not that big a deal; life goes on and there’s more important things in the world than my minor issues. There’s even more things going on in my own life than my minor problems!
You can bring it into the classroom
Once you start to realize how wonderful being grateful can be for you, you can start talking to students about it as well.
I’ve talked about this before, and using gratitude writing with your students, but you can do this less formally as well. Even though using daily gratitude and journal writing is a practice I swear by, I know we all have different ways of setting up our classes and using our time effectively.
Even just checking in with your students once a week about things they’re grateful for is helpful. Or, in your own everyday language, you can simply mention something you’re thankful for or happy about.
When students witness this type of attitude and optimism, they can genuinely feel your positive energy. Believe me, the whole energy of the classroom changes and becomes lighter.
You’ll value the little things more
Personally, I find that when I write daily about things I’m thankful for, I start to recognize even the small things in my life I don’t always think about.
Honestly, this is because I don’t want to write “family, friends, dog, food, house” every single day. I want to be more creative than that, so i start to really think and become imaginative!
So, thinking of new things each day gives me a great perspective, not just on all the big things I’m happy about, but all the little joys that make each day worthwhile. Getting to sleep in just a little bit on weekends, reading in bed, slightly burnt popcorn.
All these little things bring a smile to my face and make me slow down and enjoy the little things more in life.
You have time to reflect
Often in our busy, day-to-day lives, we get overwhelmed and don’t take any time to slow down.
Having a gratitude practice literally forces you to slow down and actually think about things in your life. I find this helps me in several areas of my life.
When you take time to pause, even if it’s specifically to focus on what you’re thankful for, you’ll tend to start to think about other areas of your life, too.
For example, I’ve started to think about how I spend my time and I plan more intentionally now. I’ve thought back to teaching some classes and realized I should have given students more grace. I’ve even started to be more considerate when spending my money.
It gets you writing
Now, incorporating gratitude into your life doesn’t necessarily mean you have to write out everyhting you’re gratefuly for, but I like to do so.
There’s something really powerful about putting pen to paper, which I feel really helps to fully understand and “feel” what you’re writing about and why it’s important. There is a reason we memorize notes we write out by hand moreso than ones we type.
Anytime I start writing a gratitude list, I just naturally start free writing or journal writing as well. There’s soemthing about sitting and reflecting that has me wanting to get everything in my head out on paper.
This practice really helps to clear the head and settle overactive minds. Plus, jsut like we want kids writing each day to keep their minds sharp and for practice, it’s an excellent habit for us to ahve as well!
Well, what do you think? Are you already incorporating some kind of gratitude practice in your life? Am I missing something major? Did I miss the mark and go too “woo” on you? Let me know!
Enjoyed this? Here are some other blog posts on Katie is a Teacher you may like:
Want even more? Here are some Katie is a Teacher resources you may be interested in: