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“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between their work and their play; their labor and their leisure; their mind and their body; their education and their recreation. They hardly know which is which. They simply pursue their vision of excellence through whatever they are doing, and leave others to determine whether they are working or playing. To themselves, they always appear to be doing both.”

–Francoise Rene Auguste Chateaubriand

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The various facets of educational leadership have brought me as much purpose, energy, and gratitude as I have for other things in life which are not “work.” It is true, when you love what you do, there is no work…there is simply meaning.

I discovered through my doctoral research that gratitude and well-being are predictors of academic success among college students. After having my first daughter, I began to see the impact of teaching her appreciation and taking time to notice the little things in life. The impact of gratitude extends way before children begin school, it starts to develop as children’s sense of self is developing.

Young children are learning to say “Thank you ” around age two and three, however, a grateful perspective roots much deeper than just words. As their understanding of themselves develops, so can the appreciation of what goes well (and not well) in their day, and who and what circumstances contribute to such things. Teaching them to train their minds to notice the little things and value appreciation is a protective factor that can have positive outcomes throughout their lives. Research on teaching children gratitude has shown that children with grateful perspectives develop more optimistic and resilient attitudes.

Children with a grateful perspective experience:

  • Less negative emotions
  • Bounce back quicker from adversity
  • Report feeling better connected to school and family
  • Higher levels of well-being

Cultivating a grateful perspective also has a direct relationship on learning; as our brain is more productive in a positive state than at a negative, neutral, or stressed state. Meaning, students learn more effectively, make less mistakes on challenges, and make better decisions in a positive state. This clearly has advantages for children as they reach the elementary school years and beyond. A grateful perspective is also an antidote to negative self-talk. When children notice the good in others they tend to be less judgmental of themselves. This is an important concept for young learners to master as being less judgmental and having positive self-talk can have lasting beneficial outcomes, extending beyond just academics.

As our children are exploring how reading, writing, science and sharing with one another all connect to this process of life, it is our responsibility (and delight) to teach them well and to show them the magnificence of this planet and all its possibilities. These little people are often the ones who often remind us what we are grateful for even when our day presents unexpected and crazy challenges. They calm us, they excite us, they bring us back to the basics when they display their awe and wonder at a dandelion blowing its seeds in the wind. Our toddlers and preschoolers remind us of the beauty and mystery of life when they revel in the fun of picking berries off a bush or lemons from a tree. Their awe and wonder is the precursor to gratitude. As such, the developmental years are the prime time to instill a foundation of gratitude.


 

GratitudeGarden4-300x157The first Gratitude Garden Preschool is now open in San Clemente, California. Please visit the website for more enrollment information.

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Orange County and San Diego County need an independent preschool through fifth grade school with advanced instructional pedagogy for young inquisitive learners. There is a gap in the educational services for a rigorous, yet creatively balanced, independent education for kindergarten through fifth grade. The lack of independent education options is problematic. This is evidenced through focus groups with parents from local play-groups, HOA communities, and general feedback from parents whose children attend private and independent schools.

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