Recently, my 11-year-old daughter was cleaning out her dresser drawer. She came across a small blue journal from second grade and ran into my bedroom as I folded the laundry. “Look, Mom! This is my “One Good Thing” journal from Ms. Hale’s class.” The laundry could wait; we had some reminiscing to do. Some of the “good things” we read about was the day she got to make friendship sushi with candy, playing California snowball fight, and me packing her favorite lunch snack; hummus and pita chips.
The journal is 4.5 by 3.25, pocketsize really but can hold an entire year of gratitude. Inspired by Ms. Hale’s unflappable ways to connect with kids, I decided to reach out to her to see how I may be able to replicate “One Good Thing.” Being the musical teacher she was, she suggested the song “Bad Day” by Daniel Powter to introduce this type of journal writing. If you have heard this song, you’ll know how perfect it is and how much it can lift our spirits.
As I prepare to introduce this to a group of second graders, I would be remiss not to pause and dedicate this post to Ms. Betsy Hale, who after 40 years in education, has retired. Ms. Hale has left an indelible mark on my daughter as well as hundreds of other students. Additionally, it’s important to note the power of gratitude journals. An interesting finding from mindfullittleminds.com is that “expressing gratitude for the people and things in our lives can leave us happy up to a month afterward.” You can read on how to start gratitude journals with students in this entire article here.
We know that people who express gratitude are less depressed and are happier. According to an article, “How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain” on the greatergoodberkely.edu, practicing gratitude steers us to use positive words and “shifts us away from toxic emotions such as envy and resentment.” The article also explains that writing down gratitude can alter your brain. The medial prefrontal cortex of the brain showed greater activity. This suggests that down the road we can be more sensitive to experiences.
I’m privileged to carry on this legacy from Ms. Hale and I hope that one day down the road, students will come across their own One Good Thing journal and be able to reminisce and cherish moments.
In closing, I do feel this year of teaching could be more difficult than last year. It feels like the weight of the world’s problems sits on my shoulders. However, when I pause to think about what is one good thing, maybe those problems are opportunities. What’s one good thing for you that’s happened to you?