Middle school can be a tough time. You feel awkward, scared, stressed, embarrassed and a bunch of other feelings that accompany the onset of adolescence. You make good decisions and bad ones. Avery, a 7th grader at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Massachusetts who uses GiveThx, said, you worry about “falling behind in school or feeling left out and not included.”
Middle school can feel particularly hard because of the jump in intensity both academically and socially. St. Mary’s started using GiveThx a few years ago as a way to help students orient themselves, build self-esteem, and create healthy relationships.
Avery explains that GiveThx’s gratitude practice makes students “feel more included because it brings to our attention how others feel about us and that we aren’t being as left out as we might think.” She believes that gratitude “gives you an opportunity to talk to people that you wouldn't normally talk to or get the chance to hang out with. It gives you the confidence to talk to them face-to-face and show gratitude toward them."
Matthew Bourque, St. Mary’s principal, sees how taking the time to thank others can make a difference, particularly for students who struggle socially. “It's an opportunity to, in a safe low risk way, break down a barrier, try to start a new friendship or relationship. Students get to slow down and be reflective about their relationships or their experiences with their classmates and say what's on their heart.”
“They realize that gratitude is a way to connect with classmates in a way that they probably couldn’t or wouldn’t know how to do in person that starts to break down barriers.” And when it comes to having difficult conversations with students who make bad decisions, Matthew says he appreciates how he can “look on GiveThx and see that this isn’t the only side to this kid, that there’s a lot of great things coming from them and a lot of belonging, gratitude, and love for his or her classmates.”
GiveThx helps students feel more included, valued, and resilient. It helps them see the good in others and make school a more welcoming place, something students, teachers, and families care deeply about.
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