As educators in Episcopal schools, we recognize that preparing students academically is just one part of our mission. A hallmark of Episcopal schools is the integration of spiritual formation into all aspects of school life. An important aspect of this formation is the development of an essential character trait: gratitude. The month of November is the perfect time of the school year to guide students and families in focusing upon their many blessings, and in acknowledging and appreciating what they have.
The author Wendy Mogel’s statement, “Gratitude does not come naturally but must be taught to children,” summarizes the challenge that parents and schools face. She also reminds us that teaching a child to be grateful begins with modeling an attitude of gratitude ourselves.
What are some of the ways that we can model thankfulness this month?
- While our school chapel services always include general prayers of thanksgiving, we can invite children and adults to submit personal thanksgivings to be shared during prayer time.
- Each chapel service or classroom prayer time can include a special thanks to someone who has helped the community. It could be the maintenance staff member who planted the flowers or the cafeteria worker who prepares the meal, the office receptionist who makes visitors feel welcome, the eighth grade student who volunteered to lead the recycling program, or the parent who brought cookies to the faculty lounge.
What are some ideas that schools can share with parents about teaching gratitude?
- Encourage parents to teach their children to write (or for young children, draw) thank-you notes to those who have helped them. Perhaps the November newsletter can feature some examples of notes of gratitude.
- Suggest that the dinner table prayer include the opportunity for each family member to share one “blessing of the day.”
- Share with parents of young children this prayer ritual: begin bedtime prayers by having the child offer a blessing on 5 people this day. (Parents will be amazed at how many people a child will remember and want to bless.)
What are some ways that you teach an attitude of gratitude in your school? I welcome your thoughts and ideas.