Developing An Attitude of Gratitude

The Seven Greatest Gifts We Can Give Our Students – Gift #3

We’ve blogged before about the importance of living mindfully, for teachers and students alike. Mindfulness in itself is a gift that we must strive to give to our students. We have to let them know that there’s a fulfilling way to live their lives that leads to contentment. Bringing a sense of peace, calm, and serenity to the classroom can pave the way for a culture of safety, curiosity, and deep learning. In this post, we’ll remind you of all the reasons you want to teach your students to be present in the moment, but we’ll also add another important dimension to this philosophy: cultivating the attitude of gratitude in your students and yourself.

Previously, Zach wrote about one simple word that can change one’s life: YET. There’s another magical word that our classroom reveres… and it isn’t “please” or “thank you”. The word that we put up on a pedestal (right next to yet) is: GET. Yes, the title of this blog post is an in-line rhyme. And yes, YET rhymes with GET… but the way in which this word can change the culture of your classroom is very different and equally powerful. Whereas YET can turn a fixed mindset into a growth mindset, GET plants the seeds of gratitude in the hearts and minds of our kids.

What are you talking about?

Imagine this transition point in your day: the students have just come back from their art class, and have pulled from their backpacks a healthy snack. They nestle into their favorite flexible seating spot, eagerly awaiting you to read aloud from the new favorite book du jour. You read, modulating your voice for each of the characters and the class is totally hooked! After a while, you know it’s time to get back to math. You tell them to put away their snacks and open up to page 313… and what do you hear?

Students: “Do we HAVE to do math?”

Teacher: “Yes, we HAVE to.”


Students: “We GET to practice our math skills!”

Teacher: “Yes, we GET to!”

If this seems like a loaded question, it’s because we obviously want our students to have the latter attitude – an attitude of gratitude for the opportunities that they have in their lives rather than an air of boredom, restlessness, and entitlement… a problem that our culture of instant gratification hasn’t helped to improve.



Five Easy Ways to Create Attitudes of Gratitude:

  • Express gratitude for your students freely and frequently.

“Thank you for mentioning that. I’m so grateful that you noticed this.”

~Teacher to student after participating in discussion.

In Peter Johnston’s landmark book. Choice Words, he gives lots of examples of where the words we use with students can make a huge impact on how they think of themselves as learners. For example, when one student shares his research about fish, the teacher’s reaction is one that shows gratitude: “It’s so interesting. I’m learning so much just sitting here. I better let you guys get back to work. Thank you for teaching me about those kinds of fish. And is the rest of your plan just to keep reading and recording?” By saying thank you to a student, it shows one final mark of respect for the student, and of the value placed on learning.

  • Don’t let ungratefulness slide.

One of my favorite ways to react when kids show negativity is something I learned from being a counselor at a summer camp. Anytime an argument would erupt on the kickball pitch, or a disagreement about the rules of ultimate frisbee, counselors and campers alike would sing together, “Hold up, wait a minute, put a little love in it!” This refrain would be a kind way to remind each other that we should really be grateful for the opportunities we have, rather than fighting about the minutia. They say, “what you permit, you promote,” so when you hear anyone grumbling about something in school, find a way to redirect immediately so as to not grow a culture of curmudgeons.

  • Consider your language when framing your launches.

Kids will pick up on your attitudes and actions faster than a chicken on a junebug (apparently, that’s a saying in Texas). If you display any kind of indifference or apathy towards things that you’re doing in the classroom, don’t expect the kids to have any better opinion of it than you. As you launch a lesson or unit, go at it with rigor and energy, highlighting why it’s important and why we should be grateful for the opportunity to enjoy it.

  • Teach them the power of “get”.

Here are some easy switches to remind kids that it’s their mindset that can make or break their day:



Do we have homework tonight? Do we get to practice at home?
Will we have to know this for the test? When do we get to show what we know?
Do we have to do math today? I don’t get it! When do we get to ask questions to make sure we know how to do this?
Do I have to go outside for recess? It’s cold! How much time do we get to spend outside today?
Do I have to work with him? He can’t do it like I can. I’m glad I get to be a mentor to him this afternoon.

“Being thankful isn’t just for Thanksgiving. Find something to be thankful for every single day and watch your life change.”

-Zach Rondot

  • Have Students Create a Gratitude Notebook.


And Here’s Why:

Here’s a Great Quick Podcast to Listen to for Yourself:


-Courtesy of Chuck Poole via

Other Ways to Get Started:

There are a ton of great resources to practice mindfulness as a class. First and foremost, the website, has a whole section of videos to walk kids through getting their minds in tune with their bodies. In fact, there’s even a clip about being grateful.


It is impossible to feel stressed out and grateful at the same time.

-Jim Rohn

When you are grateful for the problems because of the opportunities they reveal, your change in attitude will surely yield different results. Here are four main categories of mindfulness exercises that can help kids become more present in the moment, and therefore more grateful overall.

1. Thought Observations

A practice that teaches you to notice as thoughts arise, label them—for instance, as positive or negative, focused on yourself or others—but avoid getting absorbed in them.

2. Loving Kindness

A practice designed to foster positive feelings of love and care, initially toward a close loved one and then extended to yourself, others, and eventually the whole world.

3. Body Scan

A practice where you focus on each individual body part in turn, from head to toe.

4. Breathing Meditation

A practice where you focus your attention on the sensations of breathing.

Feeling Grateful YET?


Written by: Grayson McKinney (@GMcKinney2)

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