In this Conscious Classroom episode, Amy Edelstein will explore different ways to think about gratitude as well as several different mindfulness practices that you can share with your students to cultivate a deeper sense of care in your classroom.Support the show
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Hello! Welcome to this month’s Conscious Classroom on expressing gratitude. My name is Amy Edelstein. I’m really happy to be speaking about this together today. Expressing gratitude is a moving and important quality to cultivate in ourselves and in our students.
So not just feeling grateful but learning ways to express and extend gratitude to others. And some of that is by cultivating our familiarity and habit of acts of kindness. Some of that is through act of contemplation, which influences our actions. And some of that is through a more focused and applied ability to recognize and acknowledged acts of kindness as they are extended to us and as we extend them to others.
Oftentimes, we think that kindness or gratitude is just something that we have or give or express and we don’t necessarily put attention on the developing it. Times like Thanksgiving come upon us. We start turning our attention to our families and friends, our loved ones. Sometimes we find that relationships have taken a backseat amongst the busyness of our lives. And we feel the longing for more intimacy, for more closeness, for more expressions of love in our own live, for deeper connections, for time with that which really matters.
We often feel a desire for the busyness or the superficiality or the acrimony and the public discourse to fade into the background so we can again be a loving family, a loving human family, caring for each other, aspiring for the best, and uplifting each other with our own audacious visions for what the world could become.
As educators, Thanksgiving time is usually a time of lots of papers to grade, lots of students to support to get into line, and lots of students’ personal issues of different home issues that make holiday life challenging for them. They all land somewhere in the periphery of our vision or directly square on our desks.
Very important during this time to do some extra love and kindness towards yourself, some extra practice, some extra self-care so that you can go into this holiday feeling grateful for your colleagues, grateful for your administration, grateful for the opportunity to help mold and shape young people, opening their minds to what’s possible, giving them the assurance and courage, helping them to have faith and belief in themselves.
In the webinar today, let’s do some exercises first for your self-care as an educator. So, pull a piece of paper up and a pen that you like to write with. And in these next few minutes whether it’s a list of words or some images, I would like you to express some things about yourself that you feel grateful for.
Are you grateful that you have a good listening capacity?
Are you grateful that you are a good educator and you care about your students?
Are you grateful and appreciative that you can spot potential and help kindle it into a solid flame?
Are you grateful that you know how to have fun or that you are a loving spouse or parent, sibling, or child?
Are you grateful that you have the wherewithal to juggle everything that it takes to get to school on time with all the materials to get to your job on time with everything you need and to show up and satisfy all of your responsibilities?
Are you appreciative for the education that you have gotten and the skills that you have picked up along the way?
Do you like your own sense of style or music or rhythm or poetry?
Are you grateful for the sanctuary that you have made in your home or for a little garden or for the way you take care of your pets?
Are you grateful that you know how to hydrate and eat well and support your body with exercise, stretching, fresh air?
Are you grateful for your intellectual skills, your ability to read and discern?
Are you appreciative that you can hold it together when sometimes you feel overwhelmed?
Are you grateful that you have a warm and caring heart or that you meditate and you have put time into discovering the numinous and expanding your own experience and consciousness?
Are you grateful that regardless of whether your resources are sufficient or abundant or even lacking that you are able to manage and be generous?
Take a moment to add some more words and reflections, acknowledging your own qualities, your personality, your attributes, your talents, your successes, the small ones.
Do you appreciate your own quality of being polite, of being able to maintain order, or to support a colleague?
Are you appreciative of your own sensitivity, your own curiosity, your own love of learning, your own love of the philosophical mysteries that lead to depth and inner riches?
Give yourself this opportunity to love and reflect. And as we finish this exercise, notice how it makes you feel.
Now during the Thanksgiving holiday where you’re may be off work, you’re may be busy with family and friends, make sure you take some time which you can do together as a pre-dinner or a dessert exercise. Have some beautiful paper, even some gold pens. Let people make their own gratitude list about themselves. Give them a nice envelope, decorate it, that they can take home with them so that your Thanksgiving is a beautiful time together and an allowing of everyone to open their hears towards themselves.
In your classrooms, as you are preparing students for this holiday, recognize that often Thanksgiving is a challenging one. And this can apply to any students. Students often feel like their homes should look like a Hallmark greeting card and sometimes they can’t appreciate the sacrifices being made on their behalf, the way parents, families, extended families, guardians extend themselves. And sometimes are homes of lack of financial resources and abundance. Or Students may have lost a family member to illness.
Thanksgiving brings those memories back in a flood. And we want to support them. We want to allow all students to find a way to feel loved and to access that experience of gratitude for what is, for potential impossibility in their lives even if you as their teacher maybe the only one spot at the moment for them.
I would encourage you to teach them the love and kindness practice. And before you guide them through the practice, if they haven’t already done it, put them in small groups of 3’s or 4’s and have them come up with a list of four good wishes that they would send themselves or another. And then invite one person from each group to the front of the class and in a long line go down group by group, the individuals, and have each of them shout out to the class their four good wishes.
Students love to hear from each other. They love to hear their own wishes amplified and supported. And they also say the most disarming things, everything from silly things about each other to serious and self-disclosing wishes that indicate challenges and concerns at home.
It gives the opportunity for the whole class to hold all the students each other through their own words and their own wishes. It gives the whole class an opportunity to hear from each other, to hear the different wishes and what it indicates behind that.
In areas of poverty, you often hear wishes, “May mother have a big beautiful house on a block that’s safe? May I and all my classmates live to be 30 or even 18 or may we all be successful. May our teachers give us less homework? May we have early dismissal every day?”
You hear the most uncanny things from the vulnerable to the silly, from the personal to the communal. Bringing that environment into the class creates community. It’s a community builder and it allows for the expression of care and gratitude and sensitivity amongst students in a way that’s not invasive, it doesn’t intrude on their personal lives but it gives them the opportunity to merge their personal lives with their classroom personas and lets you be a part of that.
A third practice that you can do in the classroom is having all the students keep a log between now and the end of the month or now and the end of Thanksgiving holiday where they list one thing that happens to them that they are grateful for and one quality that they have that they are grateful for each day.
So each day, they have to notice something about themselves that they appreciate, something about themselves that they do well, that they want to express, and that they want to honor, and that they want to recognize.
The act of making this a piece of homework lets them be seen, lets them express, and lets you peek into how they feel about themselves, what they can find about themselves, and keeps turning their attention towards positive qualities.
What do you appreciate about yourself today? And it has to be different than what you appreciated about yourself yesterday. What could that be?
And what are you grateful for today, something different than you were grateful for yesterday?
Keep turning the students towards positive recognition of their own qualities and the qualities of other people.
You can also begin a gratitude chart on the wall so that we start forming a collective gratitude chat and either it’s a chart or you have beautiful pieces of paper in a fishbowl. And they have to write something each day and drop it in or add something to the gratitude tree, making leaves on the trees so that by the end of this week, the week between now and Thanksgiving, you have a tree filled with everyone’s expressions of what they are grateful for, both about themselves and about acts that are extended towards them, aspects of their experience in life.
We are constantly looking for ways to make visible these acts of appreciation, qualities that we are grateful for, finding ways to acknowledge ourselves, finding ways to allow our students to acknowledge, and finding ways to show that and to showcase that. So we are making space in the public forum for expressions of gratitude, not just expressions of excellence and achievement but expressions of our own humanity.
As you start making your list for Thanksgiving, what you are going to cook or what you are going to pack, what you are going to bring as a gift, ingredients you need to buy from the supermarket or the Farmer’s Market, schedules of visitors arriving and departing, contemplate each person that you are going to see this Thanksgiving and make your own list, what you are grateful for about them and what you are grateful, the qualities in yourself that you appreciate and recognize about your relationship with each one.
Oftentimes, families have a way of creating frictions. These ease a little bit of sadness. Before you meet everyone again face to face, spend time recognizing what you appreciate both about yourself and how you’ve been in the relationship and about them and good things that have happened.
There are maybe two sides to the coin. There are maybe pieces of disease. But for this exercise, focus on what you are grateful for. Write it down beautifully. Keep it for yourself and know that you are preparing yourself inwardly, exercising these muscles of care, allowing yourself to relax into your better nature, allowing yourself to focus on the kinder expressions in your friendships, and allowing yourself to truly prepare for the holiday with a sense of gratitude, a sense of appreciation, and a sense of what’s possible to bring into your home, into classroom, and into the world.
And let us close with a final meditation, allowing yourself to sit in your favorite meditation posture, making sure that your spine is straight and that your body can be at ease.
And let us begin by picturing ourselves and extending to ourselves these wishes.
May I always appreciate my own thoughtfulness and ability to forgive the things that no longer matter?
May I always appreciate the creativity and abundance I’m able to bring into my own environment and share with everyone around me?
May I always appreciate my ability to make people welcomed and feel supported?
May I always appreciate my patience and hard work?
May I always appreciate my ability to persevere?
May I always appreciate my own ability to enjoy life and to have fun?
May I always appreciate the diversity of my interests and hobbies?
And may I always appreciate my own love for learning and for sharing inspiration with those around me?
May I always appreciate that I have what it takes to inspire and to teach?
And may I always appreciate that I also have what it takes to renew and rejuvenate my own self?
Keep extending any other wishes and acknowledgments of your qualities to yourself, picturing yourself there, allowing yourself to rest in stillness or in contemplation.
Really letting go.
And now, turn your attention to your whole class or if you are not a teacher, to all those whom you share a learning environment with, your fellow meditators, practitioners. And let us extend this appreciation to them. Extend the appreciation for their ability to learn.
May I always appreciate your curiosity, your questions, your insights, and your creativity?
I appreciate the effort you make, the way you want to succeed, and how hard you try.
I appreciate your smile, the way you make the best of things, and the way you are kind.
And I appreciate even under the things that sometimes get under my nerves or rub me the wrong way.
I appreciate that your spirit just like my spirit is trying to find the warmth and sun in this world.
And now, turn your attention towards all of your family as you think of them with this upcoming holiday. Think about what they mean to you, how much they have extended themselves to you. Think about the ways they support you or have supported you. And extend this appreciation to your family and friends.
I appreciate your steadiness.
I appreciate what you have taught me.
I appreciate how you’ve served through lessons good and lessons hard to make me the person I am.
I appreciate your intelligence and unique expression of self.
I appreciate the small things that make you so familiar and dear to me.
May you always have sufficient means and wealth to be comfortable?
May you always be safe and out of harm’s way?
May you always remember those who love you?
May you always be surrounded by warmth and by care?
And may all of your fears and sadness be washed away.
Extend your own wishes to all those you care about, allowing the season of gratitude to begin now and allowing yourself to soften and extend appreciation and gratitude for all good in life.
Thank you everyone. Have a wonderful holiday and may you really truly feel the joy of gratitude and the warmth of gratitude and love wherever you may find yourself and with everyone you may be with.
Talk to you next month.
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