Teaching and Learning the Practice of Gratitude

By: Lori Strauss, Head of School

As we head into the holidays, Head of School Lori Strauss shares her thoughts on the practice of teaching and learning gratitude.

Me: How was your Thanksgiving? 

Middle School Student: We went to New York to see my family. My grandmother asked me a lot of questions about school.  

Me: What did you share with her about school so far? 

Middle School Student:  My friends….. and she was surprised. We both thought it was going to be hard to make friends at a new school. It’s also been a while since the pandemic and I wasn’t used to having friends. She was glad to hear about my friends and said that they are important.  

Me: What about your academic work? 

Middle School Student:  Math, I really like math and that hasn’t happened before. 

Prior to Thanksgiving, our middle school students engaged in a gratitude project. The research on expressing gratitude is clear–people who practice gratitude are happier individuals, but you don’t have to practice to experience the benefits. Expressing gratitude has positive effects on current and situational levels of happiness as well.  

Talking with the middle school student about his grandmother reminded me of something my grandmother used to say, about the “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence” mentality. She taught me that this was an unhealthy framework for living. Focusing on what you don’t have or what someone else has turns your attention away from all of your own blessings and accomplishments.  

As educators, we are interested in how you teach and learn the practice of gratitude. Can we instill gratitude habits in our students and in our larger community? This question is especially compelling as it relates not just to a person’s individual feelings but also to their relationships, peers, teachers, parents, and the collective sense of belonging.  

Much of what we do here at Field, and what you do at home as parents, is model the behaviors we hope will become habits. 

As we head into the end of the year, I find myself grateful in this messy and imperfect world. 

I am grateful to our students. Every day after reading the morning’s news and feeling overwhelmed by the problems facing our world, I come to work. Working at a school and interacting with faculty and students in our classrooms is a hope fountain, really and truly. 

I am grateful to our families who partner with the school to support and encourage our students. Thank you for the multitude of ways you show up for both your children and the Field community.  

I am grateful to our donors. Philanthropy at Field supports financial aid, teacher professional development, and classroom, studio, and athletic materials and equipment. A gift of gratitude to Field before December 31 ensures that our programs and students remain well-funded. Your participation matters and strengthens our community.  

I am grateful to my colleagues, our faculty, for choosing to work at a school that expects them to grow as professionals and for meeting that challenge.    

The middle school student I was chatting with expressed gratitude for school without using that language. How wonderful is that? Without being prompted, he shared first with his grandmother and then with me his gratitude for his imperfect but pretty stellar first year at Field. He and I are both developing a habit in which I hope you will join us.  

Have a wonderful winter break.