Cultivating a Gratitude Practice

Latin IA Gratitude Notes

Following the CUE Manhattan Beach Rock Star camp, friend and colleague +Karl Lindgren-Streicher reflected on the incredible experience, sharing his gratitude with a number of influential people who have helped him along his journey. It’s a great post, and now that I have spent the summer reflecting about many of the changes sweeping through our school and my role within them, I want to follow suit and start developing a regular gratitude practice of my own, beginning with how I ended up where I am today.

Though I always had an interest in technology and Google in particular, I never really pushed the envelope as far as I could in my current job and wasn’t even aware of the possibilities that tech offered. Then, in the fall of 2012 our school went GAFE, and so I decided to attend a Google Summit in Boulder, CO in August to see what others have been doing with Google, working under the assumption that I was farther along than I really was.

It was the first educational conference I attended, and needless to say, I was stunned by the creativity that people were bringing to the table, and the things they were doing with their students opened my eyes to an entirely new way of thinking about teaching (especially as I look back on my notes from the summit). That’s when I first met +Wendy Gorton+Molly Schroeder, and +Mark Wagner. They introduced me to the professional world of educational technology and inspired me to get out of my comfort zone by trying new things. And Wendy in particular introduced me to the world of the Google Certified Teacher and the community that GCTs have created for themselves. I was hooked and wanted to be a part of it.

In looking back, though, I wasn’t even on Twitter at the time of the Boulder summit! Thanks to what I learned there about the power of being connected, I soon got back on, after two previous failed attempts. It makes me smile to look back on my first Tweet:

It wasn’t long before I stumbled onto #caedchat and started regularly participating in the weekly conversations, where I met countless other passionate educators who have since shaped my own thinking. That’s where I first met Karl, and I also had the good fortune to start developing a relationship with the HBUSD crew, including +JR Ginex-Orinion+Chris Long+David Theriault+Sean Ziebarth, among others like +Alice Keeler . These guys have helped me to see the value of sharing and leading by example through the interesting things they do seemingly every day.

With that momentum, I applied for the GTA in Mountain View in Dec. of 2012, though without luck. I applied again for Chicago in June of 2013, thanks to some inspiration offered by +Alice Chen, and this time luck was on my side. I had an amazing time in Chicago, thanks to the best community of educators I know and for whom I will always be grateful. They taught me the value of community and hammered home the power of the “Yes, and…” mindset. If I name one, I’d have to name them all.

It was in Chicago that I started to think about innovation and the role that design plays in education, and shortly thereafter, in the fall of 2013, I learned about design thinking and the #dtk12chat community devoted to its role in education. Through #dtk12chat, I met the Mount Vernon crew and a number of other regulars on Twitter who have had a major impact in how I now think about innovation and change. +Trey Boden, +Mary Cantwell, and +Dan Ryder, to only name a few, have made me realize that change first and foremost is about people, which has had a profound impact on how I now approach the teaching profession.

So many others have helped me along the way that it’s impossible to thank them all. But these are some the folks who have been present a major turnposts in the evolution of my own thinking, and I’m grateful for the educational community that they have helped to create. Thanks go to Karl for inspiring me to write this post. I’ll echo his call for others to consider who has helped them along their own paths and share it out.

A new school mission statement was just recently unveiled to our community, after a year of work building it. It goes well beyond traditional academic emphases, and I expect it to be a beacon for decades to come, and I’m quite proud to share it:

Harvard-Westlake strives to be
a diverse and inclusive community united by
the joyful pursuit of educational excellence,
living and learning with integrity,
and purpose beyond ourselves.

This year, I plan on cultivating a gratitude practice with my students. Once a week, we’ll take about 10min to write down on a Post-It note something we’re grateful for or share something good that happened in the week, and then we’ll post it somewhere in the room for others to see (with or without names attached to the note). By doing this, I hope that we can create a more mindful classroom experience that underscores our new mission by actively engaging with gratitude and sharing it within our community. It should be a great year.