Overwhelmed with Gratitude: Tips for Educators and Families during COVID-19

By: Chanda Jefferson, 2020 SC Teacher of the Year

For educators and families across the nation, life as we knew it changed in the blink of an eye. Schools closed and immediate actions were taken to make sure learning continued in the midst of a crisis. Educators responded by developing distance learning plans, packets, tool-kits, and virtual class schedules for families to use at home. Then, parents began facilitating learning from home.

Judging by the response in the media, this remote learning thing was a little more difficult than expected. On day one, parents were posting elaborate schedules for students to follow and some teachers committed to virtual office hours, while others began teaching the entire school day. A few days later, the enthusiasm was gone! We began to see posts like these:

Teachers have always been awesome, but now the nation can see just how much patience, love, care, and hard work goes into teaching. 

In the midst of all that is going on, I wanted to check on District Teacher Leaders. So, I set up a web meeting with the South Carolina State Teacher Forum. In an effort to capture the feelings of each teacher we asked, “How are you feeling in this moment?” We created a Word Cloud to capture responses. As we watched the screen, the first word to appear was overwhelmed. That word grew larger and larger, indicating that many teachers had also typed overwhelmed. Then, all of a sudden, words like hopeful, blessed, and optimistic started showing up. In the end, the largest word that formed in the middle of the cloud was grateful

By simply giving ourselves a moment to share how we were feeling, it reaffirmed that we are not alone in this. Processing our emotions together resulted in a rejuvenating meeting. It is my desire that this Word Cloud created by teachers can serve as a symbol of hope and positivity for educators and families across our state and nation. A reminder that in this challenging time, we all need to take a breath, and use gratitude to center our lives.

Why Gratitude?

According to Harvard Health Publishing, “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, reduce stress, relish good experiences, improve their health, and deal with adversity.” As we continue teaching during COVID-19, let’s make gratitude part of our daily routine!

Here are a few tips to incorporate gratitude into your day:

1. Write or record messages of gratitude. Thank those who are working daily to ensure children are fed, such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers. Thank people on the frontlines during this pandemic, such as healthcare workers, first responders, and essential workers. Last but not least, thank teachers, students, family members, and friends. Try leaving notes or sending messages once or twice a week.

2. Make a wall of gratitude. Use notecards, post-it notes, colored paper, or any paper that you have around the house to display what you are grateful for. Make it a family activity or part of your virtual class agenda.

3. Practice gratitude while washing your hands. During this crisis, it is recommended that we wash our hands frequently. So while washing your hands, begin to mentally express gratitude for people who have done something nice for you, your loved ones, or those helping others in need.

4. Practice mindfulness or pray with gratitude. During your quiet time, whether it is at the start of your day or end of the day reflection, make time to include what you are thankful for. My mom calls this counting your blessings.

5. Make gratitude part of your daily lessons with your family and students. During COVID-19, many companies have offered free resources for educators and families. Take a moment to check out the suggested resources and activities below to start your journey.

Educator and Family Resources: 

31 Benefits of Gratitude– (includes a science-backed guide to gratitude)

What we do all day– Family Gratitude Activities (includes many activities for families)

Mercy House Global– Free Gratitude Bundle (includes 24 global lessons for families)

Happy Humble Homes-Thankful All Year Resources (includes articles and resources)

As we navigate these uncertain times instead of being overwhelmed by stress, anxiety, fear, worry, or doubt, choose to be overwhelmed with gratitude. I am grateful for all of the amazing teachers, parents, and guardians who are continuing to educate students each day. Hang in there, we are all in this together!

About the Author

Chanda Jefferson is the 2020 South Carolina Teacher of the Year and a Secondary Science teacher in Fairfield County School District.

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