December 29, 2015
By Tony Daza, AmeriCorps Promise Fellow serving at Northfield Middle School
Thanksgiving. November is the time of gratitude. Students had a gratitude essay for English, a photo project of one thing they are grateful for each day in EL class, and were involved in service clubs. Throughout the month of November students are bombarded with the notion of gratitude, but do they understand the meaning? To be fair, most adults struggle to see the blessings in their own lives through the daily struggles so how can we expect students who face so many challenges to comprehend gratitude? They go home not knowing if they will eat or face a parental fight or they may go home to no parents of all. For many students the fear of immigration coming through the neighborhood is still real. Despite their challenges these students prevail. Their response to lessons on gratitude were amazing.
At the beginning of the month, students did not even know the meaning of the word gratitude let alone how to pronounce it. For many students the phase was to focus on material objects. Finally the students, who are only middle schoolers, began to realize the deeper meaning of gratitude. Right before Thanksgiving I had the opportunity to talk with a group of students about gratitude. During our discussion students made cards for their parents and teachers as well as helped put together a gratitude tree. At the end, one student approached me and asked if we could create a kindness board for the whole year. She said that she thought people were too mean to each other and we should focus on the positives. It doesn’t seem like much, but this one small request made my day. Her words stuck with me and now we are in the process of working with her to make her vision possible.
[From “Voices From the Field: Reflections from Minnesota Alliance With Youth’s AmeriCorps Promise Fellows.” Winter 2016.]