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Focus on Gratitude

by Upper School Science Teacher Scott Rigg

My wife gave me a gift a few months ago. It was a gratitude journal. It was nice to get a gift and I have long respected the process of journaling and reflection, but why the focus on gratitude? I needed some gratitude for gratitude.  

To use the journal, I list “three things I am grateful for” each morning, and “three amazing things that happened today” each night before bed. There are a few other prompts as well and the whole thing takes 3-5 minutes total each day. Surprisingly though, it took me much longer than that in the beginning. The “three amazing things that happened today” part was especially challenging. I learned that gratitude takes some practice.  

A few months have gone by and I have more than 200 journal entries. I thought that I was grateful before but I’m shocked at how much I've grown inside. I see now that gratitude is interconnected to so many other characteristics. Here at Rossman we have a focus on respect, responsibility, kindness and honesty.  I believe that all four of those values can be seen as manifestations of gratitude. That’s why I will focus on gratitude. Because stretching our gratitude muscles can and will strengthen our other character traits.  It’s so easy to be respectful to others, etc when we feel gratitude for the respect we have received.  

Every so often when I realize we have a few minutes to spare in our class time. I will call on a random student and ask them to share what's going well in their lives. I want to give them the opportunity to reflect and be grateful because I know it will enrich their lives. Although not everyone gets to share out, everyone gets a chance to reflect. Sometimes in this practice students remind me of myself when I started this journal. They struggle.  “What’s good in your life?” seems to be a harder question than the science content questions that are asked. Other times students surprise me in a good way.  A few weeks ago I asked a student and they said “my parents”. It seemed like they might have been just trying to give me the “correct” answer without giving it much thought. So I asked them to elaborate. The student went on and on spouting numerous specific examples of things their parents had done for them just that day. Amazing.  

This morning I’m grateful for:
  1. The students I get to teach
  2. The students who teach me.  
  3. My gratitude journal.