Posts Tagged 'gratitude'

Our last good day

A hospice patient very near the end of her life after an extended illness told me that she regretted not having been aware of her last good day until it was well behind her.

That day went unnoticed because it was likely the same as many other days that also went unnoticed.

What she was sorting out for herself, I think, was that like most of us she had not really appreciated what she had until it was gone.

That conversation encouraged me to develop the habit of reflecting each day on the things for which I am grateful, a very simple exercise that draws my attention to the presence of many things I would otherwise take for granted.

Living in the moment with an awareness of appreciation requires vigilance and discipline.

Fortunately, when we drift away from the moment, as we inevitably do, each new moment is an opportunity to reclaim that awareness and gratitude.

What do you do, or might you do, to notice and appreciate the moments of your days?

The greatest gift


One of the greatest gifts we can give others is to bear witness to their lives.

One of the most important and readily available ways we can bear witness is to evoke and listen to the stories people tell that reveal what it has been like for them to live their lives.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, a day that can serve as a prompt to honor and express our gratitude to those who came before us in our families and communities by inviting their storytelling.

To that end StoryCorp proposes that family members accept its invitation to “The Great Thanksgiving Listen” in which a StoryCorps app is used to record elders’ stories.

“The app helps users select questions and record and then upload interviews to the StoryCorps archive in the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress,” NPR noted in its report on the project.

My experience as a hospice volunteer videotaping the life stories of patients near the end of their lives revealed to me the power of such storytelling for both the patient and for family members.

Take a moment this weekend (and throughout the year) to ask the elders in your life to share a few of their stories.

Include the teachers or mentors who were important to you  in your list of those you might interview.

I promise that you will cherish those conversations for years to come.

How leaders can cultivate positive emotions within the school community

Dennis Sparks

Human emotions are contagious. School leaders’ emotions are particularly contagious because of their visibility within the school community. Their emotions can spread wordlessly from person to person throughout the school.

When principals and teacher leaders lament that they seem to have little influence, I remind them of the power of their emotional states to affect the entire school community, whether they intend it or not.

Leaders who are angry, cynical, anxious, or discouraged can infect the school community with their negative emotions. The downward flow of energy these emotions create what is called a “slow death spiral.”

School leaders who are enthusiastic, positive, hopeful, and have a general overall sense of well-being also infect the school community with those emotions. Researchers use the term “virtuous spiral”  because of the way those emotions create a positive mood and add energy to the organization.

Researchers in the area of positive psychology say that there are two things leaders can do to cultivate their personal well-being, which, in turn, helps create a virtuous spiral within the school community:

Practice gratitude by noting in writing at the end of the day three things for which they are grateful. Practicing this discipline for as little as six weeks has been shown to produce positive emotional effects.

Consistently use their strengths to accomplish important goals. This is especially true when leaders apply their strengths to purposes larger than themselves, which, fortunately, is built into school leaders’ work.

Principals and teacher leaders benefit when they practice gratitude and consistently use their strengths. And so do others as an upward spiral of emotion and energy suffuses the school community.

Question: What do you do to authentically lift your mood for your benefit and that of others with whom you interact?

Let us resolve to savor the moments that enrich our lives

Dennis Sparks

In a blog post titled “A Happy Post-Sandy Story” Jamie Sussel Turner tells a story about a particularly high level of customer service that, as her title implies, lead to a happy outcome. From her experience she concludes:

“So, as we approach the New Year let’s celebrate the small and happy stories in our lives. Let’s be bold in asking for what we need and generous in offering our help to others. Taking time to fully appreciate these moments of joy can help to drown out the sad and tragic news in our world.

“Let’s consider what might be lost in our work lives, personal lives, and relationships that we’d like to find. I’d say that maybe by asking for help and giving help to others we might just find it. What would you say?”

Let us resolve this year not only to accomplish new and perhaps even extraordinary things, but to celebrate, as Jamie suggests, “the small and happy stories of our lives,” stories that allow us to remember and savor the moments that have enriched our lives and through us the lives of others.


Cultivating gratitude for your own benefit and that of others

Because leaders emotions are contagious and infect others…

Because research in the area of positive psychology tells us that cultivating gratitude increases personal well-being…

Because addition research in positive psychology says that we are likely to be happier when our work and our lives serve important purposes that are larger than self interest…

Because other research indicates that leaders’ positive emotions have a uplifting effect on others in their organizations…

I encourage you to use this Thanksgiving Day in the United States to cultivate and savor the gratitude you feel for the important and morally compelling work those of us in education are privileged to do.

What’s on your mind?

• In what ways do you cultivate gratitude in yourself and others, particularly on days that are discouraging or filled with criticism of teachers and public education?

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