How Gratitude will Change Your Attitude (and Your Teaching)

Image credit: By Hannah Olinger (2018),, CC0/PD

Feel like giving up? Shift your perspective and find the good in your day.

By Rachel Padilla

My first year as a teacher, I was close to giving up by November. My students were difficult, my inbox was bursting, and my pile of things to grade had become a mountain. All teachers have probably felt this way at one point or another. It feels like there is nothing but struggle and negativity everywhere. But that’s often not the truth of the matter. Many times, what actually needs to change is our attitude towards the difficulties we’re encountering. The issues themselves are often not something we can change but we can change how we respond to them.

When I hit that low point I decided to shift my perspective and find the good in my day. While yes, there was plenty of negative things there were still good things happening and they needed to be recognized. Each night, I wrote down in a small notebook 3 things I was grateful for that day. It changed my perspective and my attitude. I started enjoying my classroom again. When we see and acknowledge the good we’re naturally unable to focus exclusively on the bad. It was the shift I needed.

Gratitude is an important part of having a positive attitude for everyone, but for teachers and all of us who work with kids, it’s essential. It changes our perspective to acknowledge and appreciate the good around us — whether it be the student who made a better choice when normally they wouldn’t, the fact that the whiteboard was cleaned last night and less gray than it’s been in months, or just that it was pizza day in the cafeteria. Noticing these small things can make a big difference.

How we see things matters. So does how we speak. If all we discuss with our coworkers over our 20-minute lunch is how frustrated we are with students or administrators does anyone go into the next period happier? Sharing the things we’re grateful for more than the things we have to complain about helps not only our perspective but that of the people around us.

A gratitude journal is one way to help acknowledge the good. Jotting down a few positives each day can help us make that shift in our perspective. It can also be helpful to change it up and focus on a specific category or area to be grateful for each day. One day, it may be helpful to write down three things you are grateful for about your most difficult class or time of the day. Another day, you may find it beneficial to find three things you are grateful for about a particular student like their confidence or creativity.

Another helpful category to consider is the rest of your life outside teaching. It’s important to remember that school isn’t the only part of your life. Family, friends, and hobbies are all areas of our life where we can be grateful even when we find it difficult to find the good in our classroom experiences.

Gratitude journaling is a simple habit to pick up but very effective. To begin, try these categories of things to be grateful for:

  • 3 things about your coworkers
  • 3 things about what you’re teaching lately
  • 3 things about your most difficult class or period
  • 3 things not related to school
  • 3 things related to your more difficult students
  • 3 things about teaching
  • 3 things about your school

Grab a notebook and give it a try. Practicing gratitude may change your perspective, brighten your attitude, and even change your teaching life.

Rachel Padilla is a campus minister in Colorado.

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