Developing Gratitude

From Rob Gove, upper school logic and omnibus instructor:

As we head into our Thanksgiving break, I would like to reflect on cultivating the virtue of gratitude in our students, a virtue not just for this coming Thursday, but for every day of the year.

While we all likely have some definition of gratitude (such as "being thankful for the good things in our lives"), it is not necessarily easy to teach our children to practice this virtue. I would like to suggest a few ways we can do this.

As Aristotle explains in his Nicomachean Ethics (which our Omnibus IV students will be reading soon), all virtues are habits, and we develop virtues by repeatedly doing them until they become habitual and automatic. 

So what acts can our students do repeatedly to develop the virtue of gratitude? I propose three: 1) maintaining a cheerful attitude, 2) understanding for what we should be grateful, and 3) giving frequent prayers of thanks. First, we can encourage our students to be cheerful by having a sunny, positive disposition ourselves, by showing them that we enjoy our work, and by encouraging them to do the same. A simple smile directed at a complaining student can go a long way! Second, we need to remind students they should be grateful to God for everything in our lives: even when it seems like something is simply painful, sad, difficult, or "boring", students should be reminded that God loves us and directs all of this for our good. Finally, students need to pray, and they need to pray in thanks. In my classroom, students lead prayer at the beginning of each class. In addition to asking God for help, they almost always thank Him for each other, for the opportunity to come to school and learn, and for all our blessings. It is truly wonderful to hear.

Let's all be grateful this Thanksgiving, and let's help our children to do the same.