First things first – I am not the original author of the phrase “An Attitude of Gratitude” – I am merely a fan!
Sitting with family in Pittsburgh, PA, I find myself reflecting on the year, on myself, on my work, and on gratitude. The past several days have been part of what has been a designated “unplug week.” (More on that in a blogpost soon to come!) The immediate benefit of removing myself from my smartphone and from social media, even if only in portions at a time, has certainly been a more authentic engagement with the present. Which is really just saying, it has been nice to actually be present in the moment, whether it be in serving up food, playfully arguing over a move in a board game, NOT-so-playfully arguing over a move in a board game, or getting engaged. (YUP!)
The time not spent on Facebook or plying through article after article on Politico or Google News has helped me reflect on the many things for which I can be thankful. Yeah, yeah, warm and fuzzies at Thanksgiving time – but you came here to touch base with a community discussion about digital literacy, so what’s the angle here?
This reflection time has helped me realize that gratitude makes for great readers and more literate citizens.
When I think about my classroom of middle schoolers, each student maneuvering through an age where facts become nuanced and the center of the universe is undeniably their own tortured selves, I think about the unbridled energy and hope they generate each day. They are a complicated group, and they revel in their own complication – within a sixty second time frame, they can manage to analyze a paragraph for bias, launch a brand new relationship on the spot, end that brand new relationship on the spot (this is not a joke!), AND roll their eyes at least five times.
They have an enormous capacity to create, and the developments within the ever-more interconnected digital world give them platforms and possibilities hardly imaginable twenty, ten, even five years ago.
But a middle schooler needs acknowledgement, advocacy, and guidance to create meaningfully. In the same way they can spend their time critically analyzing a paragraph or expressing themselves through a new medium, they can choose instead to tear themselves or others down, disengage from the world, etc. etc.
So how do we build better readers and more literate citizens? I think one part of the puzzle is to foster an attitude of gratitude. I’ll be writing soon about how the convergence of unplugging and reflecting helped renew my spirit and hone my focus, but I’ll share briefly that returning quietly to a place of thankfulness could certainly help our students recognize what matters in their interconnected world, what is real, what is constructive, what is necessary, and what they can do to hone their focus and do something about it, whatever that “it” may be in that moment. An attitude of gratitude puts us back in touch with ourselves AND removes us from the burden of being the center of the universe.
An attitude of gratitude – I’m going to keep reflecting on this and get back to y’all soon! In the meantime, what are your thoughts on building an attitude of gratitude in our students?