Written by Tatum Schultz, 3rd grade teacher at Rocketship United Academy in Nashville.
Every language in the world has a way of saying “thank you.” Gratitude is an inherent quality that resides deep within each one of us. It is triggered by different events and crosses the boundaries of race, age and gender. Gratitude comes from the heart. It is an acknowledgment of the positive things that we feel in our soul. When we give gratitude, we give a gift freely and unearned.
At Rocketship United Academy, our leaders, teachers and support staff are dedicated to sharing gratitude. Within our halls a positive culture thrives. Every Rocketship school has five core values and four are shared across our network: respect, responsibility, empathy and persistence. Rocketeers recite these shared values in their Rocketeer creed each day and live them out at school and in their community.
A COMMUNITY THAT SHARES A DESIRE TO EXCEED EXPECTATIONS.We build on these core values and allow our Rocketeers to grow in a community that shares a desire to exceed expectations.
The fifth core value of each school is chosen by parents and teachers as the value that best illustrates that school’s unique character and vision. Fifth core values range from service to bravery to curiosity to ganas.
Our core values fit within our mission to prepare our students to thrive in school and beyond by equipping them with critical character skills. Many of our students come from high-poverty communities. Research shows that children living in these communities experience more “toxic stress” than children living in middle- or upper-class neighborhoods. Toxic stress makes it difficult for children to manage their emotions, resolve conflicts and respond to provocations.
That is why we create a consistent, predictable and positive school experience that helps our students develop the social-emotional skills they need to succeed in the classroom and beyond.
Our instructional programs include social-emotional learning curricula taught roughly three times a week in morning community meetings. We utilize carefully-selected curricula differentiated for lower- and upper-grade students.
In our younger grades, we use the Kimochis curriculum which is centered on five characters with unique temperaments and personalities, designed to give students depersonalized opportunities to practice the skills to recognize their emotions, demonstrate care for others, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions and handle challenging situations. The characters act as a safe third-party that students can relate to as they consider their own strengths and development areas. Students in upper grades use RULER tools to track their behaviors, feelings and progress in a mood journal.
In the beginning of February, we decided to roll out our fifth core value: gratitude. Our school picked this value because we thought it was a characteristic that would make our students stronger as well as build strong relationships with their peers and teachers. When we introduced gratitude, it was just a word, but now it is a feeling that will touch your soul when you walk through the front doors of a Rocketship school.
Gratitude Grams were an idea that our Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS) team launched to further our social-emotional teaching and let our students express themselves. We thought it would give our children a vehicle to show their thanks and appreciation; to give appreciation and kindness to others. Every day, for seven days, students were given a half sheet of colored paper with a different student’s name on it. Their responsibility was to watch gratitude spread.
JUST LIKE THAT, GRATITUDE GREW THROUGH THE HALLS OF ROCKETSHIP UNITED ACADEMY.They had to write one sentence thanking that student for something they had done or they could capture appreciation for them as a peer. At the end of seven days, the students would receive their own name and could read what seven other students appreciated about them. And just like that, gratitude grew through the halls of Rocketship United Academy.
Gratitude is not just a feeling deep inside, it is choice that we make every day at Rocketship. It is an attitude we adopt and one we freely give to the children we meet each day. The habits of kindness never grow old or tiresome, they are renewed each day with a smile and open heart. To give gratitude freely is the energizing spirit that is harnessed each day in the classrooms of Rocketship.