Teacher, I am thankful for you. I don’t want you to read that sentence quickly. Hear each word in your head and feel it in your heart. I’ll say it again. Teacher, I am thankful for you. There isn’t enough gratitude going around, so today I’m going to explain why it’s important, how to show it, and who to share it with.
If you need a pep talk, and to remember your WHY for being a teacher, head over to the Dear Tired Teacher post HERE. Even in this wild, crazy time, we have a lot to be thankful for. I don’t mean to minimize or gloss over the very real challenges we’re facing, but they just make gratitude where it’s possible that much more important. I’m going to share a strategy with you to help focus on gratitude, but before that, I need you to follow with me through a mindset shift. (If you’d rather listen, you can visit the podcase HERE.)
Gratitude is good for you!
Did you know that gratitude has scientifically backed benefits for your health and well-being? An article from Forbes (HERE) explains how it helps you cultivate more and better relationships and helps your psychological health. Time Magazine actually describes gratitude as one of the easiest things you can do to improve your mental health.
The Forbes article also says that research shows people who are grateful have better physical health and self-esteem.
Never in the history of education have we needed the benefits that gratitude can bring more than we do right now. You need it, I need it, we all need it! Those of us teaching virtually are missing the encouragement from in person contact that usually sustains us. I can’t give my students a hug. Students can’t give me those sweet handwritten notes and pictures I’d normally be getting.
We are the difference makers, and we need to help bring the benefits of gratitude to those around us. We may get them personally from praying or journaling. My challenge to you is to share your gratitude and lift someone else up.
Share the Gratitude
By the good, old-fashioned, hand-written thank you note.
I’ve done the research, and we don’t give enough credit to the power of a thoughtful, hand-written note. We are underutilizing this tool in our everyday lives. It seems too simple to matter, and we feel awkward about sharing our thoughts with someone. We’re not sure they’ll even appreciate it.
Science says those things are wrong! In a study from the journal Psychological Science, researchers found that we underestimate how powerful a thank you note can be. Most of all, we underestimate how impactful it is for US when we give a note and see the person’s reaction.
I want you to think back on a time you’ve received a note like this. One that was well-thought, handwritten, and written by someone who wanted to show their gratitude for YOU. Just like I’m confident that kindergarteners still love to be read stories in goofy voices, I’m pretty sure that somewhere in your desk, closet, or maybe even your purse, you have a note like this safely tucked away.
That note made you feel special, and when you run across it, it makes you feel appreciated all over again. Personally, I have a file folder of gratitude notes from my husband, Leon, that I could never let go of. He has bought me plenty of gifts, but none of them were as special as the notes he’s written to me.
Now, I’m going to share some tips on how to write notes that resonate with people so that they’ll want to put them safely in a drawer or box and hold on to.
Gratitude Comes in Handwriting
I know you’re probably wondering why you can’t just use the modern wonders of technology and text or email. They simply don’t have the same power as a handwritten note.
Back in the post about Morning Message HERE, I agreed with Barbara Gruener that although I’d tried for years to do a digital morning message, a handwritten note is just irresistible. It has a special effect on children, and people feel more connected to handwritten text. We see typed words on screens all day long. Your grocery list app on your phone, the latest email from your administrator, and the news article with more bad news all use digital text. That’s not the format we want for a special thank you note.
Your recipient will understand that a handwritten note is important. They know that it took you longer to take the time to do it. So here are some tips on how to make that note memorable and impactful.
#1 – Have a Goal in Mind
How do you want to make this person feel? Are you thanking them for a gift or a nice gesture? Maybe you’re just thanking them for their place in your life and their effect on you. What can you say that will really demonstrate your thankfulness for that?
#2 – Brainstorm
Before you write, take a minute and a scrap of paper. Come up with emotional and descriptive words that describe the person you’re writing to and your feelings for them. I highly recommend you try wordhippo.com. This is the unicorn version of your standard thesaurus. When you put a word in, it gives you different levels of meaning for the word, and then similar words based on that meaning. Think about the person you’re writing to. Are they kind? Word Hippo turns that bland word into considerate, gracious, kind-hearted, thoughtful. Those are the kind of rainbow sprinkles I want to cover my thank you notes in. These specific, descriptive words show your recipient that you took the time to think about them.
#3 – Use Those Emotions
Use descriptive words when expressing your gratitude. Reach in your heart and pull out words that are raw, like grateful, blessed, and appreciative. These types of words will help the recipient realize just how much you appreciate them.
#4 – Draft
For my fellow OCD people out there, the thought of sitting down and just writing out a handwritten note makes me cringe. I just KNOW I’m going to mess up while I’m writing.
Here’s what I do. I type mine up first so that I can get the note to sound exactly the way I want it to before I ever pick up that oh-so-permanent pen. It has the very same effect, but it alleviates my fear of spelling a word wrong. As much as I love pen and paper, one thing they don’t have is autocorrect.
Who can we write gratitude notes for?
Of course it’s wonderful to write notes to people outside of school, but I’m going to focus on our work life as teachers. We have never needed gratitude more than now to keep us sustained during this challenging season. I’m so scared teachers will leave what they love because of what’s going on in our world. We need to hang in there for each other and our students. They deserve it.
Think of these three people first.
We’re focused on the workplace, but our little darlings can use a heavy dose of gratitude. They feel isolated, confused, scared, and worried about what’s going on in the world. You, their loving teacher, can have a big impact right now by giving them a quick note.
Maybe it’s a little selfish to bring up, but sharing notes with your students also means the parents will see those kind words and thoughts you wrote to their child. This means they’ll have more trust and positive feelings toward you.
Those people who lift us up and help us do things we could never do on our own deserve them.
Let me also challenge you to write notes to people who need them. Think about new teachers. For those of us who’ve been around a little while, think about a new teacher you know who could use a pick-me-up. Encourage them for hanging in there and showing kindness to kids.
To new teachers right now, please know this isn’t how teaching usually feels!
Some other teachers who could use a note are those of us who are just plain burned out and maybe even irritable at work. I’ve been there. I had a point in my career where I used to complain all the time. Telling someone like that thank you isn’t easy, but it might be exactly what they need. You may be able to help them focus on what they’re good at so that they can regain their joy in teaching. Besides that, being kind to someone when it takes a little more effort on your part just feels good.
Yep, YOU are the third person you need to write a thank you note to! I really did just say that. Times are hard. We don’t get thanked very much for the work on the back end that few people see or understand.
Barbara Gruener told me about writing a thank you note to yourself. You have to appreciate the hard work you are doing that few people are willing to do. It’s for the greater good. For our children. It’s a magnificent thing.
So yes, write a thank you note to yourself. I actually have done this, and I’m going to share mine on Facebook Live. I’m so nervous about reading it live. I cried writing it, and I just know I’m going to cry reading it.
Barbara suggests to write a note to yourself recognizing something you wish you had been thanked for, that you’re proud of, that you went above and beyond for, or that you provide all the time. Write it like you’re writing it to a friend, but it’s to yourself.
Yes, it was difficult for me to write. It took me about 45 minutes, but at the end I was uplifted. It reminded me that what I do is making a difference.
Keep your note. Put it away where you can find it and be reminded of why what you do matters and that YOU matter for doing it.
Teacher friend, we are impacting students’ lives. We’re getting to do what other people don’t have the opportunity to do. Let’s keep each other encouraged along the way. If you’d like to be part of a community that is grateful for you, head over HERE to the Primary Teacher Friends Facebook group.
In case no one tells you, I am grateful for you and the vital work you do every single day.
Keep making a difference, difference maker!