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Elementary School Graduation and Teaching Gratitude

My husband and I call this the “Season of Clapping.” Between graduations and awards ceremonies, your hands start hurting.

It can also be a season of gratitude and a good time to teach kids to be thankful for the people in their lives.

As part of the Be the One leadership program at Our Lady Queen of Peace School, students in the older classes mentor the younger children on messages based on Kathryn Otoshi’s award-winning book, One.

The eighth grade mentors the second graders and it’s been a good partnership. They’ve read books, played word games, created Venn diagrams, decorated ornaments together and in general got to know each other while building a relationship of respect.

It seemed a good idea to use the eighth grade graduation as a time to teach gratitude…and who said these lessons have to be boring? As a farewell, the second graders organized a surprise party for their older counterparts. On a day that the eighth graders were off campus, the second graders went to work making cards and signs and practicing “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”

In the process, we were able to talk with them about gratitude. They talked about what made their Be the One partner special.

(When the seven-year olds were asked how we should fool the eighth graders in going to the party, they suggested things like, “Tell them Jesus is in the gym,” or “Tell them to come look at the two-headed bird.”)

When the big day came, the second graders hid on the stage and when the curtain opened they yelled SURPRISE! The eighth graders genuinely seemed happy in a “I have to still look cool” kind of way.

They ate cupcakes and drank juice and did an activity together. Using a template of a shamrock, they were asked to wish four things for each other. One of them said, “I wish you could come to high school with me to hang out.”

Understanding is the anti-bully. Gratitude is the anti-bully. Really getting to know a person that you didn’t know before is the anti-bully. Listening to someone younger than you and remembering what it was like to be 7 is the anti-bully. Having someone look up to you — hanging on every word — can be a life saver.

Introducing these concepts in the early years is One of the ways we can change the culture of mean.