Thankful in the Moment

November in schools can be a tough month. The energy and excitement from the start of the year fades.  Initial efforts to meet students' needs, both academic and behavioral, are falling short of success.  Budgets need watched more closely and no new resources are available.  All the while, as administrators we may be guilty of not recognizing these cues and we embrace the famous words sung by Dory from “Finding Nemo”, “Just Keep Swimming”. Our “just keep swimming” efforts may in fact make it hard for all of us to stop and find thanks in the moment.

When the grind of the year settles in and stress levels are high, it becomes natural and easy to react emotionally, neglect #leadsmall moments, et cetera.  However, if we can push these seasonal habits aside and make it our mission to find worth in even our most stressful moments, the dividends are huge.  In fact, research supports the importance of gratitude. When we adopt the practice of being thankful and express gratitude, we can have these seven benefits:

  1. Gratitude opens the door to more relationships - “win new friends”
  2. Gratitude improves physical health - “experience fewer aches and pains”
  3. Gratitude improves psychological health - “increase your happy”
  4. Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression - “make love not war”
  5. Grateful people sleep better - “15 minutes before bed and you may sleep better”
  6. Gratitude improves self-esteem - “optimal performance”
  7. Gratitude increases mental strength - “reduce stress and overcome trauma”

Morin, Amy (November 23, 2014) 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Gratitude That Will Motivate You To Give Thanks Year-Round. Forbes. Retrieved from

If you reflect on the seven benefits above, can you find at least one that would impact you as an educator? How about the the impact it would have on students who are practicing being thankful or being grateful? Let’s be honest...all seven of these benefits would positively impact educators and students. So, what are we going to do about it?

As fellow school leaders, we've discussed the temptation to let the stress of the season get the best of us.  We've also discussed being "thankful in the moment" and the positive impact it can have on staff, students and parent.  Tis the season of thankfulness, so we would like to throw down a challenge to be exhaustive with gratitude as you close out this first semester of school.  Here are intentional acts of thankfulness that are worthwhile.

  1. Parents--Reach out to parents via phone calls, social media, and/or good old-fashion thank-you cards and say the following. “I’m a better educator and person because of your kid.  Thank you for sharing him/her with me.”  This isn’t just lip-service, folks.  We all know kids that have made an indelible impact on our lives.

  1. Classified Staff--Many times in staff meetings, we make the effort to “fill the buckets” of teachers, where we take turns showing our appreciation for fellow professionals.  We need to do the same for our custodians, food service staff, and office personnel.  Take time to tell these folks how they impact your day, making life at school easier, cleaner, and tastier in some cases :-)  Coffee and doughnuts go a long way, too, in demonstrating appreciation.

  1. Teachers--Do the teachers in your building know how thankful you, as a leader are for them? How do they know? How do you let them know? I am not talking about the random thank you that is added to the end of the email or the token, thank you so much, you add to the end of a five minute conversation that happens in the hallway. I am talking about making and taking time to genuinely let your teachers know how thankful we are for them. It could be a handwritten note, taking over a duty, covering their classroom or giving teachers the gift of time.

  1. Students--The boys and girls that fill our schools on a daily basis are our customers. Do you view them as such? How do you show your students customer appreciation? As students enter and exit our buildings do you take time to talk with them? In just a few short minutes, a conversation with a student can be very rewarding. In those brief moment, students share how thankful they are for their teachers. Students share how much their teachers believe in them and provide us with specific examples of why they feel the way they do. If the most frequent customers, our students who we see everyday, feel as if we believe in them, it may be the best way to show our gratitude. We show them gratitude through believing in them and making sure they know it.

As the holiday season draws near, we are surrounded by reminders to give thanks, be grateful and cherish those around us. The reminders make it easy. The true challenge is giving thanks, being grateful and cherishing those around us when the holiday season is gone, the students return to school and the day to day business of school just tends to take over. It is in those moments, the moments that make us feel as if we cannot breathe because there is just so much that needs to be done, that we need our attitude for gratitude the most. Let’s use the final month of 2015 as an opportunity to showcase our gratitude and be thankful in the moment.

We would love to hear how you are being thankful in the moment and challenge you to share your thankfulness with the hashtag #thanksinthemoment

Paul Erickson is the lead learner at Union Valley Elementary in Hutchinson, KS. He welcomes you to check out the daily awesomeness of his school’s staff and students at #UVlearn!

Matthew Arend is the principal at Sigler Elementary in Plano, TX. Check out the learning and excitement at Sigler Elementary by following @SiglerStars and keep up with the hashtag #siglerlearns

Matthew and Paul connect and learn with each other through LeadUpNow @leadupchat.