Maybe I’m a little old-fashioned in my reliance on books in this increasingly digital age. But I notice how when I am in deep quicksand, books always help me get unstuck, whether the challenge is spiritual, emotional, intellectual, or physical. They’ve been my greatest resource and best friend during my worst days.
And books always seem to find me when I need them—specific ones will. Someone might give me a book as a gift, not realizing that it’s exactly what I need at the moment. Books have fallen off the shelf at the bookstore as I walked by, begging to be noticed. And read.
Recently, a book delivered to me a teacher-life, game-changer: the art of appreciation. “Ask and It is Given” outlines a method called “Rampage of Appreciation” that will cultivate your joy, with surprising results in your life, both in and out of the classroom.
Rampaging Appreciation works like this:
- Observe your environment wherever you may be.
- Choose some specific aspect you like or enjoy.
- Focus all your attention precisely on what you enjoy about that object, person, or thing.
In your classroom, you can appreciate anything in your environment, your lessons, and your school. As your students arrive in the morning, notice things you enjoy about each student. You might think to yourself, “I really enjoy the way she smiles at me in the morning” or “I love how Rufus gets right to work when he sits down”.
Try this at home as well. You might really enjoy your new couch. You may think, “I really enjoy sitting on this couch. It’s so comfortable.” Now move to a different object. Focus on the object you like, not on anything you want to improve in your environment. By appreciating your environment just as it is, you’ll begin to have different emotions associated with it.
But what I’m most excited about is using Instagram to take appreciation to the next level in my classroom! I use the app as a sort of personal, visual gratitude journal. Using it in this way was inspired by another book,“Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferris. He uses a video blog every day to focus himself on his audience, elevating his mood every single day.
I often took pictures to put on Instagram just for my kids and their parents to see. What if in my appreciation and gratitude for moments when they working really hard, or had a perfect sentence, or even my lesson looked truly fun, I took a picture as a visual representation of my gratitude and appreciation for them?
I’ve taken pictures of beautiful objects and moments in the classroom—a pencil placed across the paper mid-sentence, a student helping another, engaged reading, personal drawings, and an empty classroom at the end of the day. Books inspire me but technology is my tool. Not only do I have a visual gratitude journal—with a hard copy at home–I keep appreciation at the forefront of my mind and day.
We teachers can inspire each other with our visual gratitude. I hope you will write in your gratitude journal without hiding it away for your eyes only. But even more: post your appreciation! Search with hashtag #visiblegratitude to see my daily postings on Instagram AND post yours with the same hashtag. Let’s all make joy what it means to be a teacher!