What can your students learn from billionaire Oprah?



Although the academic year is still relatively young and mock exams (especially if you’re marking them) can give you little time for anything else, we’re rounding off the calendar year with a little thought for staff and students to carry forwards into 2015… gratitude.

Although many students are already giddy with thoughts of the Christmas holidays, those upcoming festivities offer great ways to discuss the idea of being thankful. Whilst they’re excitedly chatting about what they’re hoping to get for Christmas, a good way to start the conversation is by challenging them to consider instead:

  • If no money or presents were available, what abstract things, such as kindness, help and happiness, would they give instead?
  • If Christmas was about giving thanks for what they already have, rather than what they will (hopefully) get, what things would they already be thankful for?

It might be worth sharing that even celebrities, who appear to be able to buy anything they wish in the material sense, acknowledge that happiness and a sense of success aren’t necessarily gained by having what they have, more by being grateful for what they have.

Oprah Winfrey says that the single most important

thing to her is keeping a gratitude journal, where she writes down five things she is grateful for, every single day. Most of these are small things, but Oprah advocates that the physical act of writing helps to really connect you with the words, to add to the feel-good factor which not only results from, but also perpetuates,
an attitude for gratitude and a sense of well-being.


Of course however much you bounce into class like Tigger, expressing your joy at the little things, every class has its Eeyore, who can perceive nothing but the gloomy side of life. This ‘nothing good ever happens to me’ attitude is perhaps because that person isn’t on the lookout for those genuinely good moments and experiences, let alone
show gratitude for them.

But however grotty things are for some of your students, and there are always students for whom circumstances are less than ideal, finding something to be thankful for and sharing it is a fully inclusive exercise, even if you have to challenge your Eeyore to meet you half way…

“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.

“So it is.”

“And freezing.”

“Is it?”

“Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an

earthquake lately.”

A.A. Milne

As famously warned by Lao Tzu, with his insightful “watch your habits; they become your character,” if we can teach our students to find small things to be thankful for, we are offering them not only a route into self-awareness but also a set of tools with which to build positive attitudes and personalities.

  1. Implement the keeping of gratitude journals as part of PSHE curriculum or self-awareness, student development project.
  2. Incorporate gratitude into lesson starters – what are you grateful for from the last lesson, for example?
  3. Gratitude assemblies – including awards for students who are expressing gratitude or making a positive contribution to the school community.
  4. Pay It Forward Day – challenge everyone to do something for someone else and then pass it on, to create a sharing, feel-good vibe around school
  5. Community gratitude – involve parents in gratitude events too!
  6. Setting gratitude challenges – with their love of social media, students will find lots of examples on Facebook, or you can lead them with ideas from our recommended resources section below.
  7. School displays – get the students to write thank you letters or create a multi-media gratitude display.
  8. Gratitude karaoke event – get your heads together to find songs that spread happiness and positivity
  9. Give gratitude and happiness pride of place in the school schedule by dedicating time to gratitude, through a half-day of PSHE projects, workshops and fun activities.
  10. The Best Days of Your Life? Challenge students to give examples of why their school days are some of the best days of their lives.

We’ll leave you with a final quote from Oprah, which summarises the attitude that we are trying to foster in our youngsters:

“Focus on what you have and you will always have more;

concentrate on what you don’t have and you will never have enough.”

Wishing you a great end of term and all the best for a happy and relaxed holiday break, until we see you again in 2015.

That’s it from Unstoppable Schools for this month – we’ll be back in January discussing self-confidence.

Be Unstoppable!

Kevin Mincher


Recommended Resources

Whether you choose to use these in the classroom or to inspire your own ideas, we’ve found a few resources that you might be grateful for:




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