November 21, 2013

Taking a Moment at Thanksgiving

It’s about to be Thanksgiving – again. It’s not a holiday I grew up with. Yet hands-down it’s my favorite holiday of the year. It makes me very happy that, in this country, we have a whole built-in day devoted to saying thank you.

At Thanksgiving we don’t focus on material goods or extend the holiday unnaturally by months.  It’s about family and being together and expressing thanks. Simple. Lovely. Connected.

At Friends’, in our elementary school this morning, we’re celebrating Grandparents' and Special Friends’ Day, a time for our students to invite into school their grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, anyone who’s a special person in their lives.  We’ve got singing performances and classroom activities, fresh-brewed coffee and Dacia’s famous snacks.  We’re in for a grand time.

As we approach Thanksgiving, I am reminded that leading researchers in social sciences have shown us that practicing gratitude makes a huge difference in children’s development. At Friends’, we know a thing or two about this. 

Following last year’s 25th Anniversary Gratitude Project and as we continue to partner with academics on both coasts who are studying this field, we have learned that the practice of gratitude increases students’ positive emotions and optimism. It decreases their negative emotions and physical symptoms, and it makes them feel more connected and satisfied with school and with life in general.

Our school is very pleased to be featured and honored a recent article by the Education Director of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley. This is the organization run by Dr. Christine Carter who came to speak to our community just over a year ago. Dr. Vicki Zakrzewski interviewed our lead teachers, in both the elementary and the preschool, to learn from them many of the activities they had designed to support our Friends’ students in their practice of gratitude.

We hope the ideas in this article will be read widely and used by teachers across the country who are beginning to embrace what we’ve known at Friends’ since our founding: the importance of social emotional learning, the value of being grateful, and the deep significance of character education. It’s something we work hard at every day and have done for over 25 years.

Congratulations to our teachers for continuing to be at the forefront of research-based education and for being open to sharing their fantastic ideas with the world.

As we spend this Thanksgiving holiday with family and loved ones, I hope we all take a moment to appreciate and be grateful.  There is no doubt in my mind that the world, and our children, will be better for it. 

A very happy Thanksgiving to you all. 

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