By Todd Nesloney and Travis Crowder

After years of research and study, Brené Brown found gratitude was a common factor in people who led joyful lives. Things like gratitude journals or daily statements invited joy into the lives of the people she spent interviewing throughout her research. We’ve been interested in this idea—how gratitude changes us—for a while, but lately, it feels like finding those moments of gratitude is harder than it was before. Hybrid teaching. COVID-19. Fear. Uncertainty. Lesson planning. Evaluations. These are the things that flood our minds daily. But finding gratitude? Seems like a stretch.

Leaning into the things we are grateful for is a healthy practice. Other researchers, such as Joshua Brown and Joel Wong, discovered that acknowledging things we’re grateful for leads to happier living. And reporter Maanvi Singh explored the idea of writing down the things we appreciate. Again and again, writers and researchers conclude the same idea: Gratitude is a powerful thing.

Gratitude teaches us there are things about which to have joy. If there are things you are doing that help you identify the intersections of gratitude in your life, we applaud you. The busy-ness of life can prohibit reflection, but we have found that taking a moment to stop and to attend to ourselves gives us space and time to exhale. If you aren’t, we offer the following as a guide, not a comprehensive list, of things you can do to find these moments.

Read. As voracious readers, we know the power of the written word. Slowing down to read a book, blog post or article gives us a sense of equilibrium. It restores balance. Just read to enjoy.

Write. Taking a moment to write moves things from our minds to the page. We have found it a healthy practice, but we want to extend this invitation to you. Find time in your day, possibly in the morning as the world is just waking up, to grab your notebook or computer and compose. Write whatever comes to mind. It may be a list, a letter or a short story. Just write.

Keep a gratitude journal. If you have a notebook you keep, you can add this to what you already write. Listing things we are grateful for makes our thinking visible. And that helps.

Leave a positive note for someone else. It may seem trivial, but often the act of leaving a handwritten note can have a lasting impact. We still have folders full of notes that were written to us acknowledging what we bring to the table.

Make Phone Calls to Family. Many administrators make positive phone calls home to the family members of students, but what if you also took the time to make a positive phone call home to family members of your staff! And we’re not just talking about your teachers. Don’t forget to do this for your support staff, office staff, maintenance, cafeteria, nurses, etc.

The job of an administrator is a never-ending list of to-dos. In the midst of the daily grind, gratitude can easily be overlooked or forgotten about. We challenge you today to make time for gratitude. Even if you have to put it on your calendar so you don’t forget. It’s that important.

Todd Nesloney is TEPSA’s Director of Culture and Strategic Leadership. He is an award-winning educator, author and international speaker.

Travis Crowder, a National Board Certified Teacher, teaches middle school students in North Carolina. He co-hosts the popular podcast series “Sparks in the Dark” and is co-author of Sparks in the Dark.

TEPSA News, January/February 2021, Vol 78, No 1

Copyright © 2021 by the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association. No part of articles in TEPSA publications or on the website may be reproduced in any medium without the permission of the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association.

The Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association (TEPSA), whose hallmark is educational leaders learning with and from each other, has served Texas PK-8 school leaders since 1917. Member owned and member governed, TEPSA has more than 5,900 members who direct the activities of 3 million PK-8 school children. TEPSA is an affiliate of the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

© Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association

Sign up to receive the latest news on Texas PK-8 school leadership.