Be Thankful & Grateful; Be Aware & Appreciative

Most would agree that Thanksgiving is a day to express thankfulness and gratitude…my questions to consider are:

**Does this expression on Thanksgiving day have to be the only day? 
**Why would we limit our thankfulness and gratitude to one day? 
**How do each of us practice thankfulness?
**How do each of us practice gratitude?

Thanksgiving is not only a day to reflect on the past and enjoy the present.  It can be a day to start an ongoing life of gratitude. 

There is a distinction between thankfulness and gratitude.  I believe thankfulness is more momentary while being grateful is a deeper level of thankfulness and grows over time.  As you think about how you differentiate between thankfulness and gratitude, consider life experiences, blessings you have received or shared with others, the good within you, and the good within others.  Awareness (thankfulness) and appreciation (gratefulness) should extend beyond the day of Thanksgiving.

Razzitti (n.d.), Schultz (2018) and WisdomPost (n.d.) point out differences in the terms. Being thankful or thanking someone often implies you are acknowledging your recognition for something that someone has given you or done for you. Being grateful is about appreciating what one has, as opposed to what one wants.  Gratefulness is an emotional response to reflection of an occurrence or series of occurrences that have made a difference in your life. WisdomPost lists several distinctions between thankfulness and gratitude.

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” ~ John F. Kennedy

It would seem logical to believe that expressing thankfulness and gratitude would lead to a better life. Research supports the assumption that taking time to feel thankful and to express your gratitude leads to a better life.  Several studies (Emmons & McCullough, 2003; Morin, 2015; & Wood, et al., 2008) report that being thankful and grateful improves mental and physical well-being, boosts self-esteem and contributes significantly to overall satisfaction with life. It is difficult to show/prove a cause-effect outcome between these factors. Evidence is mounting that gratitude may well be one of the fundamental pillars of a healthy lifestyle (Allen, 2018).

There are many ways to document or track thankfulness and gratitude. A few examples are:

**Journaling to tell your stories
**Daily reflection to celebrate successes
**1-2 lines a day to highlight a memory
**There are (of course) even apps available   : )  

If you’re not sure how to start a gratitude project consider creating a “blessings” jar.  This is the same concept as the memory book I mentioned in a prior blog titled, Sharing Stories, Sharing Life .

From Grandmother’s Love Facebook page…you could start a blessings jar at Thanksgiving.

An interesting approach to stimulate thought on thankfulness and gratitude could be to establish a baseline starting point.  I share the info and tool below to inspire you to delve deeper into your personal perspectives. If you choose to use the Gratitude Quiz keep in mind that this is a self-report, subjective snapshot (read about the validity of gratitude scales in the article below). 

PositivePsychology shares 7 measures of gratitude used by researchers.

The Appreciation Scale developed by psychologists, Mitchel Adler and Nancy Fagley (2005) is a tool you can use to explore “how grateful you are”.  This tool shows the importance of the feeling of appreciation and its relationship with improved well-being. The assumption in the use of this scale is that appreciation subsumes gratitude.

This scale has eight subclasses that covers the various areas of appreciation including: “have” focus, awe, ritual, present moment, self/social comparison, gratitude, loss/adversity, and inter-personal appreciation.

Being thankful and grateful takes time to pause and time to reflect…something we all should do a bit more. 

**How do you define and practice thankfulness?
**How do you define and practice gratitude?

Watch this short video, An Experiment in Gratitude: The Science of Happiness  (7 minutes), to see how simple it is to share thankfulness and gratitude with others…you both will reap the benefits. Expressing yourself will impact your happiness. Try it out!!

Coaching: Teaching Teachers to Teach

This is American Education Week (AEW). The National Education Association (NEA) is “committed to advancing the cause of public education.”  The vision of NEA calls “upon all Americans to do their part in making public schools great for every child so that they can grow and achieve in the 21st century.”  The goal of AEW is to honor individuals who contribute to the learning process.  Each year during AEW the NEA supports and recognizes parents, support staff, community leaders and substitute teachers.  Through this public celebration NEA acknowledges all those who contribute time and effort toward enhancement of student success.  The AEW tagline is:

Reach. Educate. Inspire.

The kickoff day of AEW schools celebrate excellence in education.  Excellence in education is a result of the characteristics of the learning environment and the characteristics of a successful teacher.  

TeachThought’s mission is to innovate education through the growth of innovative teachers.

My first thoughts and questions related to the opening of the week (excellence in education) were:

**How are these learning environments created?
**How are these successful teachers developed?
**Who teaches teachers to teach? 

The teaching profession has been redefined as the interest instructional coaching grows (Wolpert-Gawron, 2016).  Coaching is helping another person learn in ways that aids in growth afterward (Frankovelgia, 2010). It is based on: 

**asking rather than telling.
**provoking thought rather than giving directions.
**holding a person accountable for his or her goals.

John Whitmore (2017) author of Coaching for Performance describes coaching in a comparable manner.

**Coaching unlocks a person’s potential to maximize performance.
**Coaching is helping the person to learn.   

Pedagogy (method and practice), content expertise (subject matter expert) and personal characteristics (relationship building) are the general attributes of a successful coach in business, sports as well as education.

Frankovelgia outlines the keys of effective coaching as:

**Building relationships…trustworthy; shows good judgement; patient; follows through
**Providing assessment…timely feedback; desired vs actual performance; insight into building self awareness
**Challenging thinking….problem solving through pursuing alternative solutions; risk taking; guides but doesn’t direct
**Supporting and encouraging….strong listening skills; open to others perspectives; recognize success and aids encourages growth
**Goal setting….able to set meaningful and measurable milestones; accountability is data driven

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) outlines the keys of effective coaching as:

**Understanding the sport; leads by example
**Being a sponge for knowledge; profound thinker[ visionary
**Sharing the knowledge; educates others
**Highly energized; a motivator
**Knowing the athlete; values and respects that relationship
**Is an effective communicator & teacher
**Is a good listener
**Is disciplined; strong in character and integrity
**Leads by example with high attitude to hard work
**Displays commitment and clear passion for the sport

The purpose of coaching, in any setting, is to and set and achieve challenging goals through increasing effectiveness, broadening thinking, identifying strengths and developing skills.

The IOC summarizes by stating a good coach is positive, enthusiastic, supportive, trusting, focused, goal-oriented, knowledgeable, observant, respectful, patient & a clear communicator.

An instructional coach puts the AEW tagline into action.

American Education Week TaglineDescriptor
ReachAchieve, Attain, Accomplish
EducateCultivate, Develop, Improve
InspireInfluence, Motivate, Spark

An instructional coach is an excellent classroom teacher (experienced and successful); knowledgeable about learning theory and able to apply this knowledge to the classroom environment.

An instructional coach is a subject matter expert knowledgeable of content area AND a process-oriented person who makes determinations on classroom strategies in part by data driven decisions.

An instructional coach has strong interpersonal skills who is credible and able to build relationships.

An instructional coach embodies the qualities outlined from business and sports. The result are teachers able to help the NEA reach its goal of:

“…making public schools great for every child so that they can grow and achieve in the 21st century.”

The Brookings Institute (2017) concludes that instructional coaching improves teacher impact. By providing more personalized support to teachers, coaching can improve the classroom instruction students receive. Instructional coaching can ultimately ensure that more students are taught by effective teachers and benefit from a high-quality education.

The TeachingChannel mission is to create an environment where teachers can watchshare, and learn new techniques to help every student grow. The video archive has a 3-part series on instructional coaching.  Anyone interested in seeing the process at work should watch this series (total time 20 minutes).  

Self reflection, analysis, practice and feedback are essential steps to mastery. See the TeachingChannel mission for more info


Veterans Day: Remembering & Honoring the Service

Today is Veterans Day.  Today is the day to celebrate veterans.  Servicemen and women display patriotism, sacrifice, and love of country during their service in the armed forces.  Our recognition, respect and gratitude could not be shared with a more deserving group.  It is important to keep the brave men and women in mind today and every day as they preserve our freedom and way of life. I want to recognize the sacrifice parents of service members make each day.  These moms and dads are also selfless and courageous.  I want to honor families of those who served and are on active duty.

The stories military parents share can broaden the scope of how we view the military experience.  Recognition and support to these parents is as important as the need to recognize and support the servicemen and women.

A friend and regular blog reader shared poems he wrote when his son joined the military and then left for Iraq.  With his permission, I share his thoughts with you.

What do you want to be my son, when you grow old like me?
At eight years old he stood straight and tall, I want to be a Marine.

I smiled and said that’s great my boy, knowing that notion would pass.
A doctor a lawyer a baseball player, I know that marine thing won’t last.

In junior high he played lots of sports, and he was pretty good at most.
But still a Marine is what he said he would be and be at any cost.

Son, I said, A dad doesn’t raise his son so he can go off to war.
He raises his kids so they will be better than him, A dad wants them to be something more.

Then came his eighteenth birthday and he brought us someone to meet.
His name is Sgt. J_____ but call him Gunny, don’t talk Dad just have a seat.

I’ve signed the papers I’ve joined the Marines, I’m an adult now I don’t need your permission.
It’s what I’ve wanted since I was eight, what I would like is to have your blessing.

What can you say when your son tells you that, I’m proud but also afraid.
I wanted things to be easy for him, I wished for his success to be made.

But he chose the hard path, to be one of the best, and there is sure nothing wrong with that.
A Marine works hard to get what he wants; you can count on him when it’s his turn to bat.

Now he’s gone for a while in a faraway land, doing what’s right so we can be free.
Giving his all for his family and country, He’s one of the few, the proud, a Marine.

So, we will patiently wait for his safe return and hope the road along the way will be kind.
Our Marine is still young with so much to do he has so many dreams left to find.

Do you remember?
It was cool for a July morning, No, it was cold. 
Your mom in a Marine sweatshirt, sister also. 
Grandma in a coat and blanket. Cold. 
Your Dad, in shorts and shirt, trying to show he was tough, like you. Remember? 
Duffel bags thrown in a truck. 
This is too real……tears.
Remember? 
Tough Marines. 
Handsome Marines. 
Young Marines. 
All of you. 
Draw your weapons, into formation. 
Tell us goodbye. 
Hugs…kisses….Tears…
Remember? 
Sun breaks through and suddenly its hot. 
Onto the bus…airport…off the bus…on the jet…
Stop, it’s too fast. 
It’s too real. 
Your leaving. 
Remember? 
Your plane catches thrown kisses. 
And now, it’s OK because you can’t see, 
Dad’s tears. 
The roar of the engines drowns out the cheers. 
We watch the big jet until it’s only a dot in the sky. 
Then…he is gone. 
Remember? 
Five hundred people stare in silence. 
No one wants to leave. 
It suddenly gets very cold again. 
Remember?

There are resources provided by all military branches to support parents and family members.  I hope to inspire and encourage you to be a lifeline and a resource to those in your area by supporting home front families.

The Code of Support Foundation provides a list of 99 Ways to Get Involved.  The Foundation lists many activities to help service members, however with a little creativity most of these activities could be something you could do for/with a home front family.  

A couple examples are:

One activity listed is to foster a pet while a soldier is in training or deployed.  A way to apply this activity to support family members could be to join someone on a walk with a pet.

Teachers often invite veterans to speak or present to students.  Broaden the scope of how we view the military experience but inviting a family member to speak to students about the home front experience.

Thank you, Nick and all servicemen and women for your service.

Thank you, Jim, Nancy, and all parents for your service.

MuSIC – Music Stimulates Improved Community

A few months ago, I wrote a 3-part series on Music Matters. Reading this series shows my belief that music is more than just notes on a page or sounds in the air.  

Music Matters: Master Class
Music Matters: Musicians & Athletes
Music Matters: Music for Me!! Music for You??

I want to expand on the idea that music (making music or listening to music) can be an avenue to crossing boundaries.

Ludden (2015) discusses the idea that music can be considered a universal language. Music certainly isn’t a universal language in the sense that you could use it to express any thought to any person on the planet. But music does have the power to evoke deep primal feelings at the core of the shared human experience. It not only crosses cultures, it also reaches deep into our evolutionary past. And it that sense, music truly is a universal language.

In support of Ludden, Steele (2016) adds:

Music does not suffer the frustrations of catering to the diverse group of people that we are likely to see in a modern community because music is non-verbal and does not differentiate or discriminate between age, culture or ability.  The benefits of community engagement with music are multifaceted and wide ranging. This is because music is a very powerful medium, evidenced by the fact that in some societies there have been attempts to suppress or control its use. Music reflects and creates social conditions and is powerful within a social group because it can facilitate or impede social change. For these reasons community music therapy has recently emerged as a context driven and ethical practiceand it has become necessary to develop theories that explain how we ‘can use music intentionally to enhance connectedness.

My contention is that music is community building. Music experience(s) crosses boundaries of lives, stories, language and is a blending of science and art.

Below I’ve highlighted snip-its from various publications and organizations to provide examples of music at work.

Music…

**surrounds our lives
**tells stories
**encourages creativity
**shares insights of others
**enhances the quality of life
**is a second language
**is transformative
**is a fusion of science and art

Links are shared in each example below. I hope you take the time to review the sections that connect most with you.

Musician Leo Samama discusses how music surrounds our lives in his book The Meaning of Music (2015)

For virtually all of our lives, we are surrounded by music. From lullabies to radio to the praises sung in houses of worship, we encounter music at home and in the street, during work and in our leisure time, and not infrequently at birth and death. But what is music, and what does it mean to humans? How do we process it, and how do we create it?

Samama discusses these and many other questions while shaping a vibrant picture of music’s importance in human lives both past and present. What is remarkable is that music is recognized almost universally as a type of language that we can use to wordlessly communicate. We can hardly shut ourselves off from music, and considering its primal role in our lives, it comes as no surprise that few would ever want to. Able to traverse borders and appeal to the most disparate of individuals, music is both a tool and a gift, and as Samama shows, a unifying thread running throughout the cultural history of mankind.

TEDxYouth (2014), are events designed for, and often organized by, young people. They bring ideas worth spreading to all ages.

Jack Lovelace, then a freshman at Flint High School, is passionate about music and storytelling and shares his insight on the idea that “storytelling through music is an indispensable part of life”.

Austin Classical Guitar Society Audience Engagement program encourages creativity through music and storytelling. Artist in Residence, Joseph Palmer travels to local schools and area venues to share a program he developed that engages children and young adults in that arts through integration of music and story telling.  “His emphasis on learning the listening process to influence the emotions, aids students in imagining a story based on the sounds they are hearing” (ACG, 2015).  Music and storytelling has been central to society for generations. 

NPR Milestones of the Millennium (1999) shared insights from others about the impact music has on the stories and lives of others over the years. Lieberman & Corigliano in their article Once Upon a Time: Storytelling.  Musical storytelling has been enjoyed by audiences for most of the millennium, and will surely endure for ages to come. The possibilities for musical storytelling will continue to develop as composers continue to discover new means of musical depiction.

In 2011 Florida Music Education Association (FMEA) hosted a professional development conference in Tampa.  Fung & Lehmberg presentation titled Senior Citizens’ Music Participation and Perception of the Quality of Life provided an overview of their literature review published in 2010.  The literature review focused on the physical, psychological, and social benefits of active music participation for healthy senior citizens. It shows a connection of these benefits to an overall quality of life of older adults. Evidence suggests that active music making has a positive effect on quality of life. Active music participation holds numerous benefits for senior citizens, including, but not limited to (a) an overall sense of physical and mental well-being, including the lessening of stress, pain and medication usage, (b) the slowing of age-related cognitive decline, (c) feelings of pleasure and enjoyment, (d) pride and a sense of accomplishment in learning new skills, (e) creation and maintenance of social connections, (f) a means of creative self-expression, and (g) the construction of identity at a time in life when sense of identity may be in flux. 

Music is a second language for students at Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (TSBVI) in Austin, Texas. They describe what it is like to learn guitar. TSBVI instructor Jeremy Coleman shares his teaching philosophy. Coleman developed his approach at TSVBI using Austin Classical Guitar’s GuitarCurriculum.com, which he has adapted for Braille. Coleman also serves as Austin Classical Guitar’s Inclusion Expert assisting classroom guitar instructors throughout the United States with solutions for students with disabilities.

A short documentary, Music Transforming Lives, by filmmaker Jenna Creech focuses on Austin Classical Guitar’s Youth Orchestra, culminating with the ensemble’s debut at the Long Center for the Performing Arts in October, 2013.

The Musical Mind of Albert Einstein: Great Physicist, Amateur Violinist, and Devotee of Mozart explains the fusion of science communication and classical music. Music and physics as disciplines complement each other. The mixing of disciplines enhances learning.
(NOTE: Be sure to watch the video embedded in the article)