Approach learning (& life!) like she approaches snow

Approach learning (& life!) like she approaches snow

Faculty Focus recently ran a lovely piece, “Engaging Students in a Habit of Gratitude,” which explains how one professor opens class by encouraging students to list things for which they are grateful in life.

Says Prof. Deborah Miller Fox,In an effort to address the sense of entitlement that prosperity and comfort breed, I decided to call my students into a posture of humility.” She also points out students (like the rest of us) “cannot learn when we are crippled by arrogance.”

The observation that one must be humble in order to learn is an astute one. Even students who come from modest economic means or troubled family backgrounds (characteristic of a number of students I’ve taught) have good reasons to be grateful, or as the article discusses, have blessings for which they are “indebted.” For one, they are enjoying higher education (mark: they are sitting in a college classroom!). Many are on some kind of financial aid or scholarship – another gift. It’s the saddest thing in the world to see students with potential let those gifts deteriorate for lack of motivation and, sometimes, a negative or defiant attitude.

Such students hurt themselves, of course; and I do wonder how many of them would improve themselves and their lives by first recognizing and then being grateful for their many blessings. I do hope the message of gratitude reaches them and inspires them to realize their good fortune and, instead of feeling entitled to high marks and preferential treatment, become more gracious and dwell in possibility.

Where to begin? One way to cultivate gratitude is to, of course, say “thank you” more often, and mean it. Another wonderful method is to start keeping a gratitude journal. I’ve done this myself just starting in the new year, and have found it truly life-changing. For more information, see “Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal” (from the University of California, Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center – an interesting resource to browse).

Image via mrg.bz / Carlson

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