Gratitude is the positive emotion one feels when another person has intentionally given, or attempted to give, one something of value. In Frederickson’s broaden-and-build theory, positive emotions broaden people’s momentary thought-action repertoires and build enduring personal resources which lead to the cultivation of resilience. In addition, gratitude nurtures social relationships through encouraging reciprocity. Such pro-social behaviour seeks to support partnership and starts social changes at a personal level. The effect of gratitude through reciprocity norms hence result in a more caring society.
In Clementi Town Secondary, we introduced a new school value “empathy” through a gratitude exercise. We believe that students can experience putting themselves in others’ shoes if they can show appreciation to the people they are grateful for. The school collaborated with “The Best of You” movement whose mission is to inspire more appreciation, gratitude, and compassion as the people behind the movement noted that these are the key ingredients to happiness.
As the movement focused on appreciation for migrant workers that year, a skit on the work they do and how they contributed to Singapore was staged during an assembly period. The students were surprised at the difficulties migrant workers had to go through just to get to Singapore. Before then, they only knew the hard work migrant workers had to put in, to build our houses and pave our roads. Students also realised how migrant workers had to deal with the discrimination at times.
An exhibition after the skit featuring videos and interviews of the migrant workers helped students to appreciate them further. However, it did not occur to them they could thank these unsung heroes. During the Character and Citizenship Education lesson on the same day, postcards were distributed to every staff and student for them to thank the people they appreciate in their lives. The school collected more than 1000 cards and sent these back to the Best of You Movement organisers. On these cards were words of gratitude, stories of kindness and inspirations for relationship-building.
Through this experience with “The Best of You” movement, we hope to continue inspiring gratitude and encouraging positive emotions in Clementi Town Secondary School staff and students. Our efforts in positive education are small but significant steps. We believe they will pave the way to student enhanced well-being and pro-social behaviour in our community.
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