Teachers and administrators are already working to start school again, thinking about those back-to-school lessons, how to greet students as they come back from the winter break.
Educators have talked a lot about mindfulness and SEL this past year, so let's speak of those two things in context of back-to-school.
First, let us be mindful that not every child had a merry Christmas nor a happy new year. Not all holidays were merry and bright; some were dark and difficult for a whole range of reasons. Second, let us be realistic that for many of our students, school is a refuge and they will be grateful to be back at school even if they seem to be nominal students. And some of our students might be stressed because they're worried about the inevitable "What did you get for Christmas?" question.
You might invite your students to begin a gratitude journal (another resource is here), and model that by saying that you're grateful your students returned to school and how happy you are to see them. Your gratitude is about your students and maybe their smiles, not about stuff. If you're working with younger students, they may not yet have the writing skills for a journal, but they can draw pictures. So maybe they're grateful for school, for recess, for flowers. It doesn't matter but helping them focus on the good things they experience in their worlds is important. The more they express gratitude about small things, the better able they might be able to see and express gratitude for larger things as they learn to see and experience their worlds differently.
As students develop those skills for seeing their worlds and experiences differently, through a lens of gratitude, through a greater sense of safety and even control, perhaps, just perhaps the way they see and think about learning will begin to change for the better, which is the gist of SEL.
Expressing gratitude for one thing takes little time, but the payoff is bound to be substantial over time.
So thank you for what you do for your students every day. Every day.