Engage and Elevate Better with Thankfulness

Martin SilvermanBlog, Engage Better, Lead Better, Teach Happier


  • What are you thankful for? How can you share your gratitude with others?
  • This post shares a number of strategies to elevate your thankfulness, including sending a handwritten note, thanking yourself, focusing on others, starting a gratitude journal, and more.

Welcome to the Season of Thankfulness!

There is something very perceptible when the calendar changes from October to November. It seems like suddenly we are thrust into the holiday whirl like a bobsled team jumping into their sled, ready for the first curve. And honestly, this is a good thing for us, as we are headed out of the season of “Shocktober,” and into the season of thankfulness! But, how do we engage with thankfulness and even better, elevate it?

What are you thankful for?

The first element of engaging with our thankfulness is simply acknowledging that there are things we are really thankful for at school. Human nature is such that we very easily see things that are injustices but rarely appreciate justice. We can feel slighted for not having something and not feel enriched by what we have. In that vein, I suggest (implore?) you to engage in thankfulness as part of your mindful practice. If you really think about what is going well at school (in your family, in your community) you will be able to identify so many elements that will make you thankful.  

There are things we are really thankful for at school. Human nature is such that we very easily see things that are injustices but rarely appreciate justice. Click To Tweet

How do we engage with thankfulness?

For the most part, this is actually something I consider a strength of mine…finding the good in situations. The danger for me is that it becomes very easy to take the good for granted. This is especially a problem when considering thankfulness. When you get used to something being a certain way, you forget that you should be grateful!

One example I can think of in my practice is that I have this teacher I adore who visits my office every morning to turn the page of my “Dad Jokes” daily calendar and read me the joke of the day. I look forward to this every morning, and when one of us is not available, I miss the interaction. But, do I communicate my appreciation to her for this daily bit of joy? As I consider the situation, I realize that I need to make sure she knows how thankful I am for the moment we spend each day.

Write about it!

Another way to engage with thankfulness is to write about the moments that make you feel thankful. I recently shared a story with my staff about a moment that brought me joy and gratitude at work. My good friend Ryan Scott calls these #godwinks. I asked my staff to share some #godwinks in a sentence or two. Sharing these notes lifted our spirits and reminded us that there are so many bright spots in our day.

Now, let’s elevate our thankfulness…

If you have been a reader of this blog series, you know that we are not content with simply engaging in a behavior. We are looking to elevate our practice as well and there are so many ways we can elevate our thankfulness. Probably the most difficult task is to look for reasons to be thankful when things are not going so well.

I can give you an excellent example from my past:

Many years ago I was a somewhat discontented principal at a school that was struggling. I was proud of many of the practices and supportive of most initiatives. However, there was a large gap between practices and student performance that was undeniable. In addition, there were interpersonal issues between some staff members that affected not only their performance but made it unpleasant to be around them.

Toward the end of that difficult school year, I happened to overhear a conversation among three staff members talking about what was wrong with our school. It was a mixture of support and optimism with some resignation thrown in for flavor. I heard them frankly discussing their perceptions of what my role was in the situation and it made me think hard about what I needed to do that would both help the organization and allow me to grow as a leader.

I was sincerely thankful for having overheard that difficult-to-digest conversation! The decision I made created a situation that grew my leadership abilities a hundredfold. I am so thankful for that struggle because it created an incredible opportunity!

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Here are some other ways to elevate your thankfulness:

  • Send handwritten letters to family members of your staff thanking them for sharing their special person with your school.
  • Consider some of the challenges your school faces.  Think about how thankful you are to be able to make efforts to mitigate those challenges.  Please notice I did not say “solve the problems.” Our goal is to improve the world, not necessarily fix it.
  • Remember to thank yourself! Give yourself credit for being resourceful, helpful, kind, intuitive, etc. 
  • Focus on others. Make a plan to connect with those in need beyond the holiday season. 
  • Start a gratitude journal. Write not only the obvious good things but also challenge yourself to show gratitude for the ordinary. “Today I drove to work in the rain and there were no accidents or closed roads!”

About Martin Silverman

Martin Silverman is a father, grandfather, husband, and long-time educator in beautiful San Antonio, Texas. He is committed to providing the best educational experience for the students and families at Salinas Elementary school where he is principal. Martin has worked in urban, suburban, and rural districts as a teacher and administrator. His interests are in creating and nurturing school culture, providing enriching experiences for students and families, and developing future teachers and administrators.

As a former bilingual teacher and administrator, Martin is committed to providing ELL students with quality programs to develop their unique skills. He hosts a podcast called The Second Question, which highlights educators and provides them a forum to discuss ideas, and to honor the teachers that have influenced their lives.