Estes Hills Community Looks for the Good
The brightly colored Post-It notes proliferated by the dozens on the walls of Estes Hills Elementary School (EHES), until there were hundreds of positive messages displayed on banners: “I am happy in Drama Club,” “I am grateful for my brother because he is weird in the fun way,” “I am grateful for Martin Luther King, Jr.” and “I am thankful for my mom because she inspires me to keep working for my dream.” The messages were simple, naming friends or parents, or more detailed, expressing gratitude for experiences like, “I am grateful for the time I fell and got back up again.”
From February 11 to February 22, EHES participated in the nationally recognized “Look for the Good” gratitude campaign, but it’s already evident the impact and deeper sense of connection and positivity will last far beyond 10 days. “Look for the Good,” a non-profit organization, is known for the core belief that practicing gratitude can significantly improve the sense of community within schools. Its CEO and Founder, Anne Kubitsky, started the organization in 2014 with the mission of “making America kind, one school at a time.” Each school who takes part in the campaign follows the schedule of the national campaign, which includes themed gratitude days and a mural composed of sticky notes with students’ gratitude statements.
Kindergarten Teacher, Ellen Royer, learned about “Look for the Good” and wanted to bring the campaign to Estes Hills. She received a grant for EHES to take part in the national campaign. After completing the grant process, Royer delegated the execution of the campaign to UNC social work intern, Treasure Williams.
EHES “Look for the Good” participation coincided with the school’s new “Start with Hello” initiative to encourage students to practice inclusivity and reach out to struggling or isolated peers. Designation of student leaders plays a crucial role in the success of “Look for the Good.”
Williams asked all fourth and fifth grade teachers to nominate three students and ultimately, two students were chosen from each class to serve as the student leaders for the project. These students were responsible for reading morning announcements, making and hanging posters, collecting gratitude sticky notes from teachers and picking locations for the gratitude spots. The gratitude spots were placed throughout the school with the purpose of giving students a space to share what they were thankful for.
In the next years, these student leaders will also host a kick-off assembly for the campaign. Additionally, “You Matter” letters were a significant part of “Look for the Good.” Each grade was given a prompt, based on relevant writing skills, to create a “You Matter” letter for students to share with someone in their lives for whom they were grateful. For this project, fourth grade students worked with kindergarten students to help them craft the letters.
Williams emphasized the campaign’s impact on teachers, as it gave them the opportunity to see students’ unspoken gratitude for all their efforts. Students posted how kind their teachers were and specifically mentioned how they were thankful for their hugs. As a social work intern, Williams expressed her own gratitude for the unique learning experience and her supervisor, school social worker, Betsy Booth. Williams also commended the students for their thoughtful responses and eager participation in the campaign.
Teachers described the impact the campaign had on the student leaders’ confidence. Tracy Jones, fifth grade teacher, said, “My two leaders were thrilled to be a part of this group. These were students who are not always recognized for their leadership. They thrived on the responsibility and were very proud each time they went with their group. The student from my class who read the announcements went so far out of her comfort zone, but loved when her friends told her she did a great job. I am so glad they were given the opportunity! This was s wonderful experience for all of the students involved.”
Williams said, “I hope that “Look for the Good” can be ingrained into part of the culture at the school.” She hopes the campaign demonstrates “the positive impacts we can have on people and how a simple hello can go a long way.” While the “Look for the Good” campaign only lasted 10 days at EHES, Williams said teachers can bring gratitude into their classrooms through morning meetings and mindfulness. The momentum from “Look for the Good” has carried on well past its 10 days, and will hopefully continue to strengthen the community at EHES.