#134 – The Power of Being Grateful with Cherie Spencer

Unpacking Education November 23, 2022 29 min

Cherie Spencer, a Social and Emotional Learning Coordinator from Galveston, Texas, joins us for our annual Thanksgiving episode. Together, we explore the power of being grateful as well as the reverberating impacts that thankfulness can have on our lives.

We also hear from several listeners and podcast guests who share what they are thankful for, both inside and outside of education. At AVID Open Access and Unpacking Education, we are thankful for you and all of your dedicated efforts in educating and supporting students. Thank you for all you do! You matter.

Paul Beckermann
PreK–12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
STEM Facilitator and Digital Learning Specialist
Dr. Winston Benjamin
Social Studies and English Language Arts Facilitator

What I’m thankful for at school is always the kids who make me smile and stay engaged, even when life can be a challenge. What I’m thankful for at home is the prayers and support poured out on us this year as my son continues his battle with cancer.

Robin Ilac, AVID District Director and History Teacher

A Multitude of Benefits

Being an educator can be challenging, and in the midst of our daily to-do lists and duties, it’s easy to forget to take time for gratitude. During this Thanksgiving season, we encourage you to take a moment to be thankful for the gifts in your life. Doing so can have many benefits, both psychologically and physically.

Throughout this episode, we offer insights, reflections, and strategies that can help you bring gratefulness to the forefront of your day. Here are a few highlights from this episode, including thankfulness statements from several past and future podcast guests:

  • Adra Davy: “What I’m thankful for about education right now is that we are back in person and our very caring educators. Every time I’m in a school I’m struck by how caring our educators are. And outside of school, I’m thankful for my family.”
  • Alefiya Master: “Inside of education, I’m so thankful for all of the teachers that are in the classroom doing the amazing work that they’re doing and powering through all of the difficult years that we’ve had—and unfortunately, continue to have—that you’re there. You’re doing all of the magic to make it work for your kids. So thank you, teachers, and especially thank you from our MAD-learn team for all of your input in helping us become a better program. Outside of education, I am extremely, extremely thankful, and I’m going to gush a little bit because I’m a newlywed. I got married a year ago, and my husband has been such an amazing—we’ve known each other 12 years, but we only got married last year—and he has been such an amazing rock, and pillar, and support system throughout my journey as an entrepreneur. We’ve been best friends forever, and he’s a fabulous human being. And he is very specifically not in education, but he knows all the things that I say, and he said, I need to make you a T-shirt that says, ‘I don’t know how to code, but I run a tech company,’ and then he did.”
  • Dr. Catlin Tucker: “I, as an educator, am so thankful to have my graduate student opportunity. I remember when I stopped teaching at the high school level, not working with students every day was very, very hard, and getting to work with teachers before they’re kind of in the classroom cementing their practice has been something that I’m so incredibly thankful for. And on a personal level, I am grateful I have two of the most amazing children on the planet. They’re teenagers, so that’s saying a lot that I am thankful for them in this moment. So what’s fascinating is that they are so different from each other, even though they grew up in the exact same home, exact same parents, and they are a daily reminder of that diversity in classrooms and my hope that teachers will see individual student strengths, and interests, and really strive to kind of meet kids where they are at, and meet my kids where they are at.”
  • Dr. Detra Price-Dennis: “I am thankful for teachers who show up every single day and try to love all of the children in their classroom. I am thankful as a mother. I am thankful as a former classroom teacher. I’m thankful for them every single day and inspired by just their commitment to really be there for their students and care for them, especially during some of the uncertain times that we’ve had. I can’t say enough how thankful I am for teachers showing up every single day. And outside of the classroom, I’m thankful for . . . actually right now, what’s on my heart is I’m thankful for all the Gen Z kids. Every time I’m on TikTok, every time I’m looking at any of their social media, I’m so inspired. They are just out here lighting a fire, and I think it’s why I wanted to teach undergrad next semester. I want to be closer to that energy and that reminder that we all can make a difference. We just have to figure out how to work together to work for change so that everyone can feel like they are valued in our society, and Gen Z, they’re inspiring me right now.”
  • Kathy Koszegi: “This is what pops into my head, and I’ll be honest. Maybe this is taking it a little heavier than you would want this to be, but I’m thankful that my son, who’s 17, is still with me because he struggled a lot with mental health last year, and we almost lost him a few times, so I’m very, very thankful that he’s still here. Inside of education, I’m thankful for the very strong support network I have around me, from the custodians to the principal of where I work—everyone. I’m just so thankful that I have people around me who are just really supportive. Like I support them, and they support me. I’m very, very thankful for them.”
  • Cari Warnock: “I am really thankful for my adopted family and biological family that I found a couple of years ago. If you can see it, you can be it, and I never saw anyone related to me, so it was tough in school, but I was so grateful for my parents that did adopt me because they’re just lovely people, and they stuck by me my whole life, so I’m super grateful for that. Inside of our schools, I’m so grateful to be a mentor. I’ve been a mentor in a specialized program for about 10 years now, and my student is graduating this year, and she’s early admissions to college, and it’s technically her senior year, but she’s in a full-time school, so this will be my third graduate that I’ve mentored, so I’m really excited about that. I’m grateful for her to have made it and to really be where she is right now and be ready for college.”
  • A Gratitude Theme: We reflect on how our guests and listeners are consistently thankful for the people and relationships in their lives. As Rena says, “At the core, it’s always about relationships.”
  • Laughter: Throughout the episode, we continue to laugh together. We also reflect on the value of laughter. It is contagious, gets your body going, and lifts your energy.
  • Benefits of Gratefulness: Cherie says that gratefulness does a lot and “it’s both mentally healthy and physically healthy for us.” She adds, “Being grateful has an ability to strengthen resilience. It has the ability to kind of give you courage to move forward and take on things that you don’t think that you can take on. And then it also has that ability to really decrease a sense of depression.”
  • Strategies: To help us better live in the moment and be grateful for that time in our lives, we can practice mindfulness, start a gratitude journal, and show our gratitude toward others, even with the act of a simple “thank you.”
  • Gratitude First: Cherie says, “If we acknowledge that our kids and our staff aren’t going to take in new things without being appreciated and connected first, then we’re not going to get to content.”
  • Toolkit: Some of the strategies we add to our gratitude toolkit include music with positive messages, thank-you cards, a virtual gratitude jar, and a reflection wall.

Guiding Questions

If you are listening to the podcast with your instructional team or would like to explore this topic more deeply, here are guiding questions to prompt your reflection:

  • What are you grateful for inside of education?
  • What are you grateful for outside of education?
  • What are some of the benefits you see in being grateful?
  • What are some strategies you can use to increase your overall sense of gratitude?
  • How can we help our students to be grateful, even when some have challenging lives outside of school?