There are aspects of gratitude that take us to a different level from happiness, aspects that I would say make the practice of gratitude deeper, more affirming, and even more important than the pursuit of happiness. Unlike happiness, which could be perceived as an individual pursuit, gratitude by definition involves more than one person or being. It requires us to look outside ourselves.
A study at the University of Virginia supported this notion. Participants who were asked to recall something good that happened to them reacted by wanting to tell others how great they felt and wanted to celebrate; they were self-focused. By contrast, those participants asked to remember something that someone had done for them wanted to share with others the other person’s kindness; their reaction was other-focused.
Because gratitude is “other focused,” it helps us to build social relations; to form friendships – in sum, to create societies through something psychologists “reciprocal altruism.” Reciprocal altruism is the principle that if someone does something nice for you, you tend to do something nice for them in return.
This “other-focused” quality of gratitude implies steps that take us beyond potentially self- focused happiness. To be grateful, we have to acknowledge another person’s gift to us. When we are grateful, we are indebted. Likewise, we may need to admit that we must depend on others. These are not conditions that everyone wants or would choose. However, if we look at them in a different light, and apply “reciprocal altruism,” we realize that these conditions encourage us to pay forward the good deeds. When we are grateful, we want to help others as we have been helped. From this perspective, gratitude implies humility. By acknowledging others’ gifts to us, by being indebted and dependent on others, we create a web of humanity connected by good deeds and gratitude. That sounds like a pleasant society in which to live.
Being grateful takes effort, particularly if we want to move from occasional feelings of gratitude to living in a state of gratefulness – moving from gratitude as an emotion to gratitude as a virtue, the virtue Cicero called “not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” The benefits of living in a state of gratefulness are many. As Emmons says, “grateful thinking fosters the savoring of positive life experiences and situations, so that people can extract the maximum possible satisfaction and enjoyment from their circumstances.”
My message to all of us – Let’s count our blessings!
(Originally posted on Common Sense Leadership)
Gratitude is infectious-–when people give thanks and share gratitude with others, they're much more likely to follow suit.
Our One Schoolhouse team is a grateful bunch so let’s hear from the team:
“I am ever thankful for the love and support of my (growing) family and friends - it is never lost on me how truly special these relationships are. I am also thankful for a job that pushes me to grow, but also gives space to enjoy life outside of work.” Curt Brossman, Controller
“I am grateful for the communities I am a part of and the new possibilities we are creating together!” Tracie Yorke, Director of Inclusive Innovation and Design
“I am grateful for audiobooks--whether fiction or nonfiction. Having a story in my pocket at all times makes so many of life's moments better!” Sarah Hanawald, Senior Director, Association for Academic Leaders
“I am grateful for the precious gift of life. Living a truly fulfilling and abundant life is a gift that I am thankful to experience each and every day.” George Greene, Senior Director, Academic Program & Principal
“While Mom was in the hospital, her family had the time and ability to visit her. I appreciate having what I need to do what needs to be done.” Lynnae Boudreau, Director of Instructional Coaching
“I am grateful for the gift of grace. For each time it's been extended to me, and for the times I could extend it in return. I am eternally grateful for the gentle people of our world who soften the sharp edges of life with their empathy, compassion and loving nature.” Amy Nyland, Director of Operations
“2022 has been a stamina-building year for many white educators. As the shininess of the DEIB/J moment faded from the national headlines, educators learned to pay consistent attention to equity, inclusion, and justice, to elevate it even as others were getting on with day-to-day business. I'm grateful to be learning how to stay in this work for the rest of my life.” Corinne Dedini, Senior Director, Teaching & Learning
“I’m grateful for a year in which I was able to experience life with friends and family more fully.” Brad Rathgeber, CEO & Head of School
“I am grateful for the grace I’ve given myself, and the grace that has been given to me, as I’ve strived to find balance this year. I am grateful for changing leaves and family bonds (blood or otherwise) and opportunities for reflection. I am grateful for reading on the metro and Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups.” Sienna Brancato, Program Manager, Association for Academic Leaders
“I'm prepared for the remainder of my undergraduate journey and I feel incredibly passionate about my future career/life paths.” Alieu Kamara, Intern
“I am grateful for the little things in life that bring me joy.” Jasper McElrath, Assistant Director, Communications & Marketing
What I didn’t know then was that there was a good reason why there was small uptake of the new idea or concept: sustained professional learning, with clear guidance, and on-going coaching was necessary to impact the change.
Let’s consider the research.
In 2018, researchers from Harvard and Brown published, The Effect of Teacher Coaching on Instruction and Achievement: A Meta-Analysis of the Causal Evidence. They found that traditional inservice models produced little uptake of new pedagogical or curricular initiatives, but by combining traditional inservice with follow-up coaching, uptake improved by more than eight times (see chart). Researchers noted that, “The quality of the feedback may be more important than actual quantity.” Coaching everything a teacher does at once was not as effective as using coaching to reinforce a new curriculum or a specific teaching technique. Summer workshops with follow-up coaching appears to be “particularly potent.”
A 2020 report from Digital Promise, Prevalence of Coaching and Approaches: Approaches to Supporting to Supporting Coaching in Education, goes further. “Teacher quality is one of the most important factors that contributes to student success. There is a growing body of research that points to coaching as an effective way to support teacher growth. As such, coaching is becoming more prevalent in schools and districts in the U.S..” The report goes on to note that most US school districts have learning coaches in their school systems now, but that the ratio of coaches to faculty and the amount of time that a coach is devoted to coaching are barriers to effectiveness. The Table included here from the report breaks down the effectiveness of professional development practices and tracks how they lead to transfer to practice. The impact of coaching is immense.
So, if coaching is effective (and incredibly so), how might you identify and train coaches for your campus, and what might they do?
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Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)