For the last 2-3 years of my teaching, I had a ritual my students completed as they walked into my psychology class each day. It was called “Tell Me Something Good”. I loved the title, because it allowed me to sing that little phrase at the top of my lungs, in my very best “terrible karaoke singer” voice… But I loved the ritual, and while many moans and groans followed the cue each day, many students eventually found they liked the practice, too.
All they had to do was to keep a piece of paper in the front of their notebook or binder, with “Tell Me Something Good” written at the top. Each class, they simply wrote the date and something good (at least 1 thing). Without going into too much detail about why I think a gratitude practice is important, I explained that even on the WORST day, you can find SOMETHING good- and identifying a good thing can be a good thing to do, helping to shift your attitude or change your perspective. It’s also nice to be able to watch the list grow over time. Certainly, some days it’s easier than others to think of something… But a listing could be “I won $500” or “Even if the cafeteria is gross, I have food to eat”. I didn’t read the entries; I had them keep the list, even once the class was finished. To try to encourage compliance, I did offer 10 bonus points on my exam if they showed the list to me and it appeared they had maintained the practice most of the time…. Most of them did. Sometimes they’d WANT me to read their list- or, they’d be so excited about their day, they’d want to share their entry with the class… Other days, they’d ask for help from the group- “Today sucks; I can’t think of anything!” and their peers would quickly start identifying possible items for the student’s list. It built support for one another in the class, and built community in the class… and I hope it planted a seed for “gratitude practice” within each of them.
To be honest, the whole idea came to me a year or so before that… I had a particularly miserable freshman in my acting I class… Life was always terrible; there was always a scowl on her face; if you said something positive, she had a way to tear it down. She could even ruin a compliment. Well, I entertained this for a month or two… tried just avoiding looking in her direction after that… Finally, I JUST COULDN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE! She was legit pissing me off. At this point, the ½ credit class was almost done. But, that didn’t really matter. If this was the effect she was having on ME, certainly it was happening to others, not to mention HERSELF… It had to stop.
On the way out of class one day, I pulled her aside. I told her what I saw and experienced from her. I explained I was happy to let her vent if she needed to talk about what sucked so much. HOWEVER, I explained that her martyr-esque, woe-is-me, life-is-miserable-and-I’m-taking-you-down-with-me DAYS WERE OVER. Attitude and outlook is half of any battle, kiddo. I told her that whenever I saw her- in the hall, in class, at the mall, on the sidewalk, at a dance- ANYWHERE, location and time did not matter- I would simply say, “STUDENT NAME, tell me something good”. I even threatened to call her at 3am… which I never did. 🙂
She would have a maximum of 30 seconds to think of something, but couldn’t leave until she had something- “I have air to breathe” “I have clothes to wear”- I wasn’t being picky. If it took more than 30 seconds, 2 things. If you were late to class because of it, I also did not care.
The first few weeks of this “intervention” were rough, to say the least… I remember thinking, “how funny would it be if I got hit by a female student?” But as the weeks passed, she was no longer my student… I’d see her in the hall and grab her, stating my phrase. She’d roll her eyes, and begin to think… and a smile began to appear during these interactions. Eventually, we’d simply make eye contact, she’d flash me this great, beautiful smile, and start without me even asking! It was awesome! The results were so good, I decided to make it a part of my classes/ interactions with EVERY STUDENT.
And gosh darn it, I’d even venture to say she and I grew to like each other. She loved that she was the inspiration behind this thing I did with all my classes. She eventually sang in my choir during her senior year, and took my psychology class… All things that came out of ‘tell me something good’ during her freshman year, when she took the greatest pride in being a royal pain in the ass.
The exercise with my classes also provided ME an opportunity to practice gratitude a few times a day. It is a practice I try to continue. It’s hard to focus on or find “something good” when it seems all we hear about and read about in the news and on social media outlets is “something bad”- crime, political nastiness, negativity, complaining… Where’s the good stuff? Why can’t we hear about that? Let’s change that cycle!
Last night, I met Chris from Bus 52 (www.bus52.com). He and his traveling companions are doing just that… traveling the U.S. for a year in a converted school bus, collecting and sharing stories about GOOD THINGS happening… It’s a pretty awesome idea!
So, for my contribution for the day, here’s a real zinger for you- A COMPANY doing something good!
Tonight I was in the mood for some soup. I LOVE soup at Panera, and I remembered seeing a Panera down Diversey Parkway… So after the gym, I headed that way. As I approached it, I noticed it said “Panera Cares” on the sign… didn’t really know what that meant, but as long as they had French Onion Soup, I didn’t really care, either.
As I walked in, I was greeted by a cheery guy, who asked me if I was familiar with the new “Panera Cares Non-Profit Community Café Model”… Um, no, I was not.
Well, friends… It’s pretty awesome… And my street has one of only 4 of these such “Panera Cares Cafes” around the country!
It’s a legit non-profit. You order your food- just like normal, from a normal Panera menu. Then, they tell you a suggested donation. If you can give it, or give more, GREAT! Any extra funds allow the café to continue operations and make sure no one is ever turned away. My order had a suggested donation of about $11.38, so I pulled out $12…. You then put your money in the donation box in front of what is usually called a cash register (It’s just an order-taker here). If you can’t pay that, it’s ok, too… You’re still gonna get fed… Pay what you can; pay your fair share. Can’t pay at all? No problem; spend 1 hour volunteering in the café to pay for your meal. Additionally, all day old pastries and breads are free for the taking. They have a guy when you walk in positioned to explain the model and the way it works to everybody. It was cool to eat there, too- it creates the exact kind of cultural mixing we need…. After work young yuppie types sitting next to the homeless guy with his bags… Everyone was happy and everyone eating the delicious Panera food of their choosing.
I am glad Panera Bread has 4 locations like this around the country; I hope the model works and more spring up, and I hope other corporations and chains follow suit. I felt happier just because I ate at a place that was willing to try to make a difference. …Wish I’d read or hear about that on the news!
My “Tell Me Something Good” for Today: (in student-style)
9.27.12- Joined a gym; actually went to a class; met 2 ppl there who go to my school; ate Panera; had the money to pay for my meal; finished my hw; discovered white chocolate candy corn flavored M&M’s.
Ok… Now it’s your turn…
“Tell Me Something Good”, y’all….
….I’m not kidding. Don’t make me call you at 3am. 🙂