As you may know there are many scientifically proven benefits of cultivating, recognizing and acknowledging gratitude in your life. Many studies suggest practicing gratitude can make you healthier and happier. Some benefits include, improved relationships, enhanced empathy, healthy physical and psychological health, and improved self esteem. Many curricular elements at RCS are designed with these proven benefits in mind. For example, practicing gratitude and appreciation shows up almost daily in many classroom closing appreciation circles as well as weekly class meetings.
Appreciating others is an act of kindness that brings joy to the giver and the receiver. But how often do you have the opportunity to offer anonymous appreciations? Recently, I was able to experience a creative centering practice aimed at doing just this.
After the 5th graders settled into their centering rituals, their attention was directed to the word and definition of ap.pre.ci.a.tion : A feeling or expression of admiration, approval, or gratitude. A favorable critical judgement. A sensitive awareness. To increase in value. This prompted a discussion about recognizing ways we appreciate others, the gifts that others bring to our lives each day and making a concerted effort to appreciate them. The teacher then prompted the students to consider the value of giving an appreciation anonymously. She explained an activity that would award each student the opportunity to recognize the gifts of his/her classmates and to appreciate them anonymously.
The students were placed into 3 groups- A, B, C. Group A started out as the appreciation givers while B and C were the receivers. Group B and C as the receivers were asked to find a comfortable position on the carpet, one in which their eyes were shielded- child’s pose was suggested. Group A then listened for an appreciation prompt from the teacher such as “Tap someone who you appreciate for their listening skills” and then migrate around touching the backs of those classmates that embody that gift.” A rotation was established so that all groups were givers and receivers.
In true RCS style, the prompts emphasized all learning domains. Some of the prompted included, “Tap someone that you appreciate for their charismatic spirit. Tap someone that you appreciate for their athletic ability. Tap someone that you appreciate for their problem-solving skills. Tap someone you appreciate for their energetic presence. Tap someone that you appreciate for their love of nature. Tap someone that you appreciate for their strength in the face of adversity.”
Additionally, each round of appreciation offered a different focus. For example, the second round for each group focused on appreciating someone who taught you a lesson, someone who had something unfair happen to them but you appreciated how they handled it and then someone who may have been in the wrong but you appreciated the way they resolved the situation and how they grew from it.
When this unique appreciation circle began, respect and reverence showed up in a stronger way- spirit as we call it entered the room. For example, the room seemed still… other than the shuffling of migrating feet, the teacher prompts and the soothing accompanying music. I felt a strong sense of love radiating from the students, the kids seemed eager to both give and receive and they seemed to connect deeply with one another. Once the rounds were complete, the music was turned off and the kids were asked to rejoin the circle…the kids emerged from child’s pose with smiles on their faces. The short reaction round also offered only positive reactions. They were asked how they felt receiving appreciations, how it felt not knowing who gave them and how it felt making time to give them…
How can what we do at RCS inspire your own personal or professional work? Consider these questions.
How does gratitude show up in your life? What do you/don’t you do to make time for it?
Take notice- the next time someone appreciates you, how does it make you feel physically and emotionally?
Challenge- appreciate a complete stranger. A minute of your time could change their entire day.