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Practicing Daily Thankfulness at Nantucket Lighthouse School

Posted on: Mon, November 23, 2015 at 1:54

As we approach Thanksgiving, a time that naturally encourages us to consider the things for which we are grateful, I am reminded of Nantucket Lighthouse School’s practice of Thankfulness.  I first observed this practice in Alisa Allegrini’s Upper Primary class, as I was preparing to cover her family leave.

During my first day in the classroom, I watched as the group gathered in the Circle before lunch. The day’s leader started with Dear Earth… and each child offered something for which he or she was thankful. I remember the very genuine way in which the children offered their thanks. Because it was close to Thanksgiving, I thought I must have caught them on a special day. However, the next day this routine was repeated and it continued each day that week. After twenty-five years in education, I had never observed such a tender but intentional practice. I later learned that the students in this Upper Primary class had been participating in this tradition since their first days in Small School.

There was something about the practice and the very thoughtful way in which the children went about it that warmed my heart. I remember tearing up as I listened to them express their gratitude and their very real connection to the people and the world around them. At the end of my first week, I attended All School Meeting where a variety of Lighthouse traditions surfaced, Morning Poem, All School News, Special Birthday Songs, and there it was again, daily Thankfulness. This time is was  followed by a song that all of the students knew well and sang with joy and purpose.
It wasn’t just the lyrics of the song, but the promise those lyrics held for each child who sang about being wise and opening her eyes to the possibility of being anything and everything she wanted to be.

Several weeks ago, I happened to stop by Kate’s Primary Class as the students were about to begin their daily Thankfulness. Seated in a quiet, peaceful circle, the children invited me to join them, clearing a space and offering their hands to me. The children held one another’s hands (without fear of cooties), looked confidently and graciously at one another and offered thanks for the marvels of nature, friends, family, Kate and her baby who is due in January. There is such a genuine, magical and anything-is-possible nature to their gratitude, and it reminds me of the importance of slowing down and appreciating the simple gifts around us.

While Thanksgiving is an obvious time to do this, there is research to support the benefits of daily gratitude. It has been shown to improve sleep, self-esteem, resilience and physical and mental health, especially in teens; it enhances empathy and reduces aggression; it strengthens relationships and team morale; and it boosts overall well being. The Thanksgiving table is a fine place to start, but a daily offering of thanks may have benefits you never imagined.

Please enjoy some of last week’s offerings of thanks. They aptly reflect the interests and preoccupations of particular ages and personalities.

Dear Earth, thank you for…

• Friends, family, Lighthouse School and learning new things.
• Castles because that’s where princesses live.
• History, presidents, Thanksgiving and weekends.
• Wompanoags because they helped the Pilgrims.
• Nature, peace, the sun, the air, trees, the ocean, animals and rain.
• My house because it’s a nice place to live.
• Pizza, three meals a day and that we all have food.
• EVERYONE IN THIS CLASS!

And from the peanut gallery:

Enjoy your time off. Keep it simple, slowed down and focused on what truly matters.

Thankfully yours,
Emily