5 G.R.E.A.T.! Gratitude Strategies for Principals That Will Transform Your Schools!


What is Gratitude?
Gratitude – the act of feeling appreciation, showing thanks, or returning kindness.

Gratitude is a powerful tool that is often ignored or left to chance in schools. One of the world’s most leading experts in the field of gratitude research is Robert Emmons. Emmons’ research points to many benefits of exercising gratitude both in life and in schools.

Emmons states that Gratitude:

  • Boosts feelings of optimism, joy, and enthusiasm and reduces anxiety and depression.
  • Increases resiliency.
  • Strengthens relationships and promotes forgiveness.
  • Makes us pay it forward and be more empathetic and compassionate.
  • Is one of the most reliable methods for increasing happiness and satisfaction. In fact, when 10-19 year-olds practice gratitude, they report greater life satisfaction and more positive emotion, and they feel more connected to their community.
  • Makes students feel better about their school; it also makes teachers feel more satisfied and accomplished, and less emotionally exhausted, possibly reducing teacher burnout.

I’ve seen the power of gratitude at work in my own school, and I know that deliberately planning for ways to infuse gratitude into students’ lives pays off in positive ways.

Here Are 5 Gratitude Strategies That Will Transform Your School

1. Gratitude Broadcast

Begin and end each day with a gratitude broadcast as part of your morning and afternoon announcements. The broadcast might include the top three things for which you are grateful, a short gratitude visualization led by the announcer, or the sharing of things for which a student from each grade-level is grateful. This platform is the perfect way for a principal to model how to express gratitude and appreciation and opens the door for a new way of communication in the school.

2. Gratitude Curriculum

Plan a daily or weekly homeroom or advisory lesson using a formal gratitude curriculum. Teaching the practice of gratitude regularly is one way to transform a school because it gives students and staff a common language and focus. This curriculum, by Jeffrey J. Froh, Psy.D., is a terrific start to formalizing the practice of gratitude in your schools.

3. Gratitude Gram

Write a gratitude gram to students, staff, or parents at your school. This simple, personalized thank you will make the recipient feel appreciated, and in turn, will motivate them to continue their awesome work. Kicking it up a notch, you might read the Gratitude Gram to the person over the intercom during announcements or during a parent meeting at the school.

4. Thank You! Challenge

Challenge students and staff to be appreciative and say Thank You at least 10 times each day for 5 days. Ask students and staff to nominate people who they think have shown the most sincere gratitude. You might make a ballot from that list or simply recognize all who were called out by their peers, students, and teachers in an end-of-week assembly or on the afternoon announcements. Students of all ages love a challenge, and this is a fun, purposeful way to continue your focus on a school climate of gratitude and appreciation.

5. Gratitude Graffiti

No principal likes graffiti. I’ve found that beating a graffiti artist to the punch curbs the unwanted artwork, misspelled prose, or inevitable expletive. Create catchy visuals to place in restrooms, cafeterias, and hallways that promote the practice of gratitude and deter graffiti. For example, a sign for the restrooms might read, “Dr. Parker is grateful that you keep the restroom clean and safe.” The cafe sign might say, “Thank you for being awesome and cleaning up your table when you leave.” Other signs might say, “Thank you for being such an amazing student!”

Another form of gratitude graffiti might be hallway or classroom bulletin boards where students and staff post pictures of things for which they are grateful. For teacher appreciation week, students can build a display that highlights each teacher’s unique gift to the school with a simple, “I’m grateful for <teacher’s name> because <reason>”. If your school has a message board sign for the community, post gratitude grams or messages like, “We are grateful for <school name> Parents!” or call them out by name. Your website is another great venue for this form of gratitude expression. Any way you can publicly recognize students, staff, or parents is sure to reinforce the wonderful work they are doing and improve your school’s culture.

These 5 strategies are the beginnings of how you can infuse gratitude into your daily school routines. They are proven ways to reap the benefits of exercising gratitude so that students are happier, healthier, and more connected to the school community. You will probably even find that when you are grateful as a leader, you are happier, less stressed by your important responsibility, and more productive in your efforts to impact students. Those around you will begin to emulate your practice, and the transformation of the school really begins! Exercise Gratitude, and Make Today G.R.E.A.T.!



Emmons, R. (2010, Nov. 16.) Why gratitude is good. http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_gratitude_is_good.

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