Finding Gratitude

Submitted by Steve de Beer
Head of School
Friends’ School
Boulder, CO

Before leaving my Colorado home to head to Boston for the NAIS annual conference, I’ve been reading about the monstrous snow in New England.

Ironic – because the weekend before my trip, it’s the long President’s Day weekend, and I’m doing what a lot of  Denver/Boulder people do when there’s a day off school. I’m heading up to the Colorado mountains for some powder. The ski resorts here are crying out for snow. The streets of Vail and Breckenridge are dry.  There is enough snow on the slopes, some of it man-made, for a good day’s skiing, but not too much around town.  I think Boston has grabbed it all.

That’s ok with me because I’m grateful.  Grateful to be coming to Boston and to be presenting at NAIS for the first time.  Grateful to have a day off school.  Grateful to live in a place where some of the world’s best skiing is a short drive away – the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships are being held in Vail this week. Grateful for the famous Colorado blue skies under which I skied this weekend.

Gratitude is something I’ve been thinking a lot about recently.  There is a growing body of research informing us that the intentional and frequent practice of gratitude makes a real difference in our lives and in the lives of our students. This is no longer considered a soft science. Leading researchers in this area, including Robert Emmons (UC Davis), Giacomo Bono (CSU Dominguez Hills) and Jeffrey Froh (Hoftstra University), have shown us that the active practice of gratitude can lead to:

  • increased self-worth
  • higher GPAs
  • improved self-regulation
  • more positive emotions
  • heightened trust in others
  • more positive relationships
  • greater desire to give back to the community
  • enhanced physical health
  • better sleep
  • improved psychological health
  • higher empathy
  • decreased aggression
  • additional resilience
  • reduced materialism and envy

At my school in Boulder, CO we spent a full-year focusing on the positive power of gratitude, something we called The Gratitude Project.

At the NAIS annual conference, I will be sharing the story of the Project and the lessons that our school community learned. (I hope you will join me – Block 2 on Thursday 26th, 12:00 – 1:00 PM in Room 206.) These lessons included far-reaching associations with the leading gratitude researchers and a school community transformed by the power of gratitude.

The Gratitude Project was a multi-faceted endeavor that spanned the breadth of my school’s community and curriculum.  Our faculty developed a gratitude curriculum and discovered many of the huge benefits listed above.

Gratitude is becoming widely accepted as one of the key ingredients to raising children of character.   That is something that independent schools have always been excellent at. We’re now learning about new ways to do an even better job of raising kids with character. And for that, I’m grateful.

Steve de Beer is the Head of School at Friends’ School in Boulder, CO.  He writes and speaks frequently on gratitude and character education.

2 thoughts on “Finding Gratitude”

  1. Aloha Steve,
    Loved this post! If you visit my blog, you’ll see I agree wholeheartedly about gratitude. In fact, I began the blog because I will be turning 39 in April. I decided to document the year before I turn 40 by doing something intentionally kind for others and reflecting on 1 thing I’m grateful for each day. After reading several books on this topic, I want to document the changes that will occur in my life. I hope our paths cross at NAIS. I’ll be attending the session on gratitude.

    Much aloha,


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