What are you thankful for?

Deepali Barapatre

“I am thankful to the mamas and the mausis because they clean my class after I leave, take me to the washroom and even clean the washrooms every day,” says 5-year-old Mohit when I ask him what he is thankful for this year. I have found practising gratitude to be a very powerful tool for increasing my own well-being. I have been writing in my gratitude journal for more than a year now and I have made an intentional effort to say thank you to each and every person who has made an impact in my life – through their books, movies, conversations or life stories. Practising gratitude has personally helped me lead a happier life.

Following are a few ways in which we (my students and I) practice gratitude in our classrooms:

  1. Model the attitude for gratitude
    • Say thank you to students, co-teachers and non-teaching staff whenever they help you.
    • Share stories of how you practised gratitude when someone helped you or how you helped someone in need.
    • Send handwritten “thank you” notes home for parents to read.
    • Secretly slip handwritten thank you notes to your students.

    When the students see you practising gratitude, they won’t be far behind in following in your footsteps.

  2. The web of giving
    • Resources needed: Ball of yarn (large enough for your group to pass around and make a web).
    • Stand in a circle. The first person will be holding the ball of yarn.
    • The first person will throw the ball of yarn to any person in the group and say what they would like to thank them for while holding one end of the yarn.
    • This continues around the circle, but the students cannot throw the ball of yarn to the same person twice.
    • At the end of the exercise, an entangled web remains from the yarn throwing.

    Use this activity to begin a dialogue about the bond that exists between each one of us and how we are interconnected like the entangled web.

  3. Gratitude Jasoos
    • Resources needed: Names of all students written on chits in a bowl.
    • Each person will pick the name of a student from the bowl but not reveal that name to anyone.
    • Each person will spend one day being a jasoos of the chosen person, i.e., observe the student for one day.
    • The next day, each student will share one thing they appreciate about that student.

    The students can be encouraged to do the same activity with their families as well. Practising gratitude must begin with families and classrooms before we extend it to the community.

  4. Gratitude journal
    • Keep a small diary where you list three good things that happened to you today.
      E.g.: I had pani puri, I was able to solve a difficult math problem which I couldn’t last week, I enjoyed playing cricket with my friends, I made my mom laugh.
    • I encourage the teachers too to keep a gratitude journal along with the students.
    • The class can end the week by sharing some of their gratitude journal entries.

    Reflecting on the good things that happened in the day helps students nurture optimism in their daily lives. Even at the end of a bad day, we can find one good thing that happened and end the day on a positive note.

  5. The ladder of gratitude
    • Draw the following in a notebook.
    • Fill in names of the people who helped you today from the beginning till the end.
      E.g.: parents, the milkman, the traffic policeman, teachers, friends, trash collector.
    • Discuss how you will thank each one of them through your actions.

    Gratitude is not only about saying thank you but also expressing gratitude through your actions. The first step to any action is awareness. This activity will help the students understand how many people play a role in their lives and hence enable them to become more empathetic, kind and grateful human beings.

  6. Gratitude letter
    • Think about one person who has had a great influence on the student – can be a family member or a role model.
    • Write a letter to that person appreciating them. Students can write about a quality that has inspired them, a happy memory, something the person they admire said or something that makes this person special and important in their life.
    • Read the letter aloud to the person or post it to them.

    This can also be part of your language class. Teachers are also encouraged to do the activity with the students.

  7. Pay it forward
    • One way of exercising gratitude is by paying forward all the kindness that you have experienced.
    • During the joy of giving week, the students can visit an orphanage, an old-age home, a hospital or an animal shelter to spend time and pay forward the gratitude.

In the age of infectious negativity, let us equip our students with sunshine to be a happy epidemic in other’s lives.

1. Character Lab – Gratitude Playbook
2. Feeling Grateful and ‘Paying it Forward’ – Psychology Today
3. https://guideinc.org/2015/11/11/team-building-activity-web-of-reflection/

The author works as Programme Officer at Udaan India Foundation (UIF). She leads the children’s Programme at Udaan. Udaan India Foundation is a Mumbai based not-for-profit organization that works towards the education of underprivileged children and youth. She can be reached at deepaligb24@gmail.com.

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