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Artarmon Public School embraces gratitude to support learning



The friendship between an Artarmon Public School teacher and Dr Kerry Howells, Faculty of Education, University of Tasmania, has led to Dr Howells developing a close working relationship with Artarmon school and involving it in some groundbreaking research into gratitude and its link to learning and student engagement.

Dr Howells initially visited Artarmon Public School in November 2007 and spoke to the staff about her research into gratitude and its application in education settings.  This was followed by a workshop for interested parents and ultimately, a decision by the school community to commit to consciously practising gratitude during this academic year.  The outcomes of this commitment will contribute to Dr Howells’s understanding of the role of gratitude and its importance in a school environment.

Dr Howells defines gratitude as “the active and conscious practice of giving thanks.  It is an inner attitude that is best understood as the opposite of resentment or complaint” (Kerry Howells 2007).  Research to date suggests that the conscious practice of gratitude promotes wellbeing through improving mood and enhancing life satisfaction.  Within an education environment, a focus on gratitude may positively affect teacher-student relationships, staff relationships, student engagement and learning outcomes.

According to Dr Howells, gratitude is an active practice that involves giving to another.  At Artarmon Public School, this involves staff, and interested parents, consciously practising acts of gratitude as they go about their daily lives and interact with their children.  Some of the practices required of those involved include:

  • Attending to inner attitudes before and during teaching or interacting with fellow staff and students
  • Choosing gratitude rather than complaint when doing this
  • Choosing two or more daily practices of gratitude
  • Noting any changes that occur as a result and reporting these to the wider group

 
Cathie Donaldson, assistant principal, is spearheading the school’s gratitude program.  She is heavily involved in supporting and encouraging staff to practice gratitude in their daily lives and in the classroom.

“Gratitude is a mindset and it begins with the individual.  Before we can teach gratitude to the children, we each need to attend to our inner attitude and everyday, remind ourselves of what we have to be grateful for,” explained Mrs Donaldson.

At a classroom level, staff are trialling a range of gratitude activities designed to make each child feel special and appreciated.  Some of these activities include simple practices such as using each child’s name everyday, displaying gratitude posters and class discussion about what makes people happy; through to more involved activities such as ‘Star of the Week’, a program designed to highlight the personal likes and admirable qualities of each child in the class.  Integral to the success of the gratitude program is the sharing of ideas and feedback between staff and parents about the effectiveness and outcomes of each of the gratitude activities.

Although the program has only been underway for several months, Mrs Donaldson believes it is having some positive benefits for both teachers and students.

“By practising gratitude in the classroom, I feel more enthused and energised about my role.  I also see the children respond positively to the activities and become more engaged in their learning.

“Ultimately, we are all working to change the culture at the school to one of gratitude and appreciation.  

“I am most excited about opportunities this program presents and can see it making a big difference for our children,” she said.

by Katrina Weir

Courtesy of Gazette August 2008

 

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