As someone who is interested in maintaining my own happiness while balancing a challenging job as a STEM teacher, Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum writer, father of two beautiful girls, and husband to an amazing wife (who is also a teacher and a really good one too) I am always looking for ways to quickly look out for myself.  I follow a few blogs but the blog I follow most is “Barking up the Wrong Tree” by Eric Barker (the website isn’t pretty but the writing is on point and you can get it emailed to you).

One of my favorite posts is on the importance of gratitude.  As an SEL curriculum writer gratitude is an important concept that we need to help students develop.  Barker outlines the benefits of gratitude in his post so I won’t belabor the point, but many articles that Barker writes are ready made SEL lessons.  One of the points that Barker makes that I will discuss is the need to have steady reminders to be grateful and thankful.

In the United States of America we just celebrated the twin holidays of Thanksgiving and Black Friday.  Thanksgiving is the day that my country has set aside as remembrance of things to be thankful for and Black Friday is the day my country has set aside to consumerism.  The juxtaposition is odd, but with the way Thanksgiving is situated on a Thursday and the Christmas season coming I guess it makes sense.  As SEL educators we should help students focus on the thankfulness.  A great way to create thankfulness and gratitude in this season is to do service this holiday season.  At our school, all homerooms take at least part of the last day of school before winter break to spend in service.  Include a reflection each time students do service with an emphasis on gratitude and you can help your students develop gratitude.

However, I have to say that Thanksgiving is also a time to talk about the twin sins of genocide and slavery upon which the US is founded.  There are videos out there to help talk about the history of Thanksgiving, right now DAPL and associated protests are happening, and some students are still struggling with the results of the election.  One of my favorite resources is a book titled To Be Free that outlines racism in Minnesota and western Wisconsin amongst the communities of color that we have had for awhile (Hmong, Native American, and African American primarily).

Take the time to talk about gratitude with your students this holiday season.  Comment below what you do to teach gratitude and let us know if you are interesting in To Be Free, as we may be able to loan you get a class set and the resources to teach it in your homerooms.

Gratitude and Thanksgiving

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