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The Gratitude of Choice

Authentic Gratitude in the teacher workplace repeatedly boils down to voice and choice.

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It often feels like gratitude is hard to come by in the teaching profession. But that also depends on where you look! Students express their gratitude on a daily basis, through words, smiles, growth, achievement. Teaching is simultaneously one of the most challenging, yet most rewarding jobs that you can have.

I decided that I wanted to hear from my colleagues about what gratitude meant to them but I didn't have working hours to sit down and have a meaningful, face-to-face conversation like I would've liked. I took 3 minutes to put together some open-ended questions on a Google form and sent it out, expecting very few responses as this is Homecoming Week.

Now, if you are a teach in the state of Texas, you know that Homecoming is a particularly special time. It means that you are insanely busy dressing up as a twin, or a movie character, planning pep rallies and parades and trying to focus students as we approach the end of a grading period surrounded by so much fun and hoopla. You eat lunch while standing up or while walking across campus because there just isn't any time to spare.

That being said, I was filled with gratitude when 25% of my colleagues saw fit to share some insight into the ways that they both give and receive gratitude on our campus.

Reading through the survey was interesting. At first, I was met with what you might expect when asking about gratitude. Things like, I like it when someone tells me, "thank you", I enjoy getting handwritten notes...and there was lots of appreciation for being appreciated with food!

What I found to be particularly interesting was just how much voice and choice related to feeling appreciated in our organization. People felt a particular sense of gratitude when they were treated as professionals. They liked when the words of gratitude, the 'thank you's' and the recognition in faculty meetings were partnered with action like their opinion being valued or being considered in decisions that affected them. I never realized just how many teachers we had on campus that had taught for 20+ years and many of them said that they felt gratitude when they were asked for advice or assistance from their peers. Their humanity being considered made them feel gratitude. Teachers aren't just a means to an end, they are people with emotional needs. The tangible things seemed to be important. But gratitude being shown through a deep consideration and knowledge of various individuals seemed to mean a lot.

In the end, the intangibles most often outweighed the tangibles.

But I think one of the most interesting things about research boils down to what is said, vs. what is left unsaid. People had a lot to say about how they like to be appreciated. And very little about what they do to appreciate others.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

I think that I went into this challenge thinking about how people in my organization might like to receive gratitude. But after a bit of research, it seems that the authenticity of the message of gratitude is measured by the person who is sending it. Who knows teachers better than other teachers. I know that we are early in this challenge but the verbose nature of the responses about how people receive gratitude opposed to how they give it leads me to believe that we can work on fostering a culture of showing gratitude to others. I wonder if there is a way to make giving gratitude easier!

Tell us about yourself

I am a marketing teacher, designer, printer, choreographer, equity advocate, Teacher's Guild Fellow and more. I was once told that I could not be everything I wanted to be so I revel in the fact that I now get to daily live out my purpose in so many diverse ways.

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