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A Month of Gratitude

Tuesday, October 30, 2018  
Posted by: Christina Mimms
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By Paige Phillips, Upper School Dean of Students, Spartanburg Day School, Spartanburg, SC


In recent years, a primary focus of the mission of the Spartanburg Day School (SDS) Student Government Association has been to take deliberate action to positively impact our school community. Though the concept of gratitude is certainly nothing new, the idea to give direct, sustained focus to such an initiative within our upper school community was outside our normal framework and actually born from heartache and struggle. 


Following the untimely loss of both a beloved teacher and a student who was a vibrant member of our junior class, student leaders recognized a need to lift the spirits of our community. Cultivating a superior academic experience goes hand in hand with supporting the social and emotional well-being of students. Our school mission, “to provide a superior educational experience, in a community of trust, that prepares students for a life well lived” provided the foundation for how the next month would evolve. 


February as a “month of gratitude” seemed just the needed medicine. Our school community had become acutely aware that life doesn’t always offer second chances, and time and opportunity are not things to be frittered away. 


We decided to give students a platform to express their gratitude by allowing them to write messages throughout the upper school building. Making the final decision to allow students free rein to pour over the abundance of glass in our hallways with brightly colored (erasable) markers was a bit unnerving. Ultimately, it came right back to our community of trust – trusting that kindness, care, compassion, and good intention would defeat any temptation of shenanigans. Check out this video of the project in action. 


The first thing written was this quote by Henri Amiel: “Life is short and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who make the journey with us. So be swift to love and make haste to be kind.”


Amiel’s words were emblazoned on a large series of interior windows to serve as the foundation of the month of gratitude. From the moment the first messages of thanks adorned the glass, an unstoppable force was in motion. The glass within our upper school building quickly filled with colorful hand-written messages. Students and teachers alike took the opportunity to express their gratitude. The messages came in all forms and quickly generated an excitement for both writing and reading the heartfelt sentiments. “I wrote 'thank-yous' to people who really impacted me positively,” said Maisie MacMullan ’18. “I wouldn’t be where I am without their love and support.”


Though never part of the original plan, students quickly moved on to verbally expressing their gratitude in morning assemblies and dropping heartfelt notes or small, anonymous gifts in lockers. There seemed to be a renewed sense of joy on campus. 


Our school plans to hold another month-long activity again next February; while the initial effort took place in upper school, the lower and middle school divisions will be included in the next iteration. 


Gratitude is something we all feel. Unfortunately, the hustle and bustle of daily life tends to highjack our opportunities for saying thank you as often as we should. Our hope is that the month of gratitude will become a long-standing tradition at SDS – even more, that it will serve as a constant reminder to take time to say what you feel and live life well. 

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