If ever there were a year in which appreciation was necessary, 2020 has been one.

I was at the TESOL Spain Annual Congress for the weekend before the Spanish confinement began on March 14th and among the many freebies available, I acquired myself a nice notebook, made from recycled paper. The keynote address was given by Sarah Mercer and she spoke about Positive Language Education. One of the action points I wrote down was that I should use my new notebook as a gratitude journal and that I should write down something I was grateful for every day before going to bed.

This was one of those intentions and as we know ‘the road to hell is paved with good intentions’. I have a whole double-page spread in my conferences notebook of neat bullet points that clearly detail my intentions from that conference, and the only one that I actually achieved was starting a gratitude journal.

The first day of the following week was the day that the closure of schools and universities was announced (to the excitement of my young adult B2 group when they checked their phones at the end of my evening class). By the end of Tuesday’s teaching, it was clear that I would be teaching online lesson from Wednesday afternoon. This was a stressful week and I began my journal on that first evening.

Looking over those pages now, I see that I was grateful for many things. I was often grateful for my students; their enthusiasm, conscientiousness or sheer determination despite everything. I was also grateful for other people: friends, colleagues and loved ones. I was grateful for my flatmate whose normal schedule conflicted entirely with mine so we barely saw one another and barely even knew one another until fortune forced us to share the same space simultaneously for months on end (luckily, we discovered that we got along well!). I was grateful for technology, which kept me connected and kept me employed. I was grateful for the view from my window which allowed me to watch an eerily silent city spring unfold.

Feeling someone’s gratitude is a powerful experience. When someone is appreciative for for something that I’ve said or done that has helped them in some way, I feel an intense pleasure response. Saying thank you, or demonstrating our genuine appreciation in some other way, is really valued by the other person. But appreciation doesn’t have to follow something special or different, thanking someone for doing something normal and everyday which is normally taken for granted can be powerful too.

I’m taking this reflection with me in 2021 with the intention to show my appreciation more often, and more often for those things that are just everyday.

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