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This article explores a student’s experience with practicing Gratitude and how technology can be used to amplify the positive effects of being grateful and sharing gratitude with peers and teachers. 

High school is such an interesting place. It’s where you experience so many new and exciting experiences, but it’s also the source of some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your life so far. Sometimes the highs of sports carnivals, debate tournaments, and school musicals can seem insignificant in the midst of academic stress or friendship problems, and we spend more energy than we probably should talking about what we don’t like about our education. Practicing gratitude puts everything into perspective. Sure, you still might have to grit your teeth through maths in the fourth period, but you’ve still got a lunch hour with friends who make you laugh and a rehearsal after school where you’re surrounded by people who share your passions.

The act of being grateful helps break the cycle of ‘hating’ school. It makes us consciously recognise the people in our lives that make them better, and more importantly, we can make a positive contribution to the school environment by saying thank you. While expressing gratitude won’t solve every cultural issue, it’s a practical and productive way for us to build a supportive environment. Feeling valued by your peers can make an immense difference to your day if you are struggling. Sometimes, it’s a seemingly small act of kindness that makes a person feel comfortable reaching out for help.

One particular shift in the culture that really stuck out to me was how my male peers interacted with each other. There’s sometimes a real expectation placed on boys and men to be emotionally distant, or not to be affectionate towards their male friends, so outwardly showing gratitude to others isn’t always something that comes naturally. When my school started using a check-in app that allowed us to send gratitude to our peers and teachers, a safe space was created for us to express positive feelings toward one another. At first, the feature was embraced mostly by female students, as we sent messages of gratitude and encouragement to one another. But slowly, as the act of being grateful became normalised, more and more of my male peers began to send and receive gratitude.

The introduction of the gratitude function seems to have catalysed a mindset shift in the male student body. Verbal expressions of gratitude quickly followed sending them over the app. It’s now common to see boys hugging their friends and excitedly celebrating their successes on campus, and under their instagram posts their friends are commenting emojis and compliments like I would on the posts of my female friends. I can certainly say that this positive shift in the school culture has made it a more welcoming place for every student. Having the awareness that your words or actions can make a meaningful difference to a person’s day, and seeing that difference when you receive gratitude, makes it so much easier to be kind and compassionate to your peers. Whether it’s telling your friends directly how grateful you are for them, being kinder to teachers because you’re conscious of the effort they put in, or using gratitude to maintain a positive outlook, regularly practicing gratitude creates a ripple effect, which I truly believe is the first step in creating lasting cultural change in schools.

The tool being referenced in this story is ei Pulse, a weekly wellbeing tool designed to help students find easier ways to ask for help, giving teachers real-time insights on those students, and helping school leaders globally uncover actionable insights into their school’s wellbeing and culture.

*The identity of the student has been kept confidential to preserve the security and privacy of the people involved in the story.

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