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Lessons In Gratitude Last All Year At Dallas' Momentous School

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Gratitude is timely during the run up to Thanksgiving.

And yet at Oak Cliff's Momentous School, lessons in appreciation are taught right alongside academics all year long.

"It really has a magical power," explains Principal Daniel Knoll.

"When students are working together, and a student might show them how to do a problem a certain kind of way that maybe they didn't know how to do before. And the child says 'thank you', 'thank you for teaching me something', it just deepens that relationship with one another and that level of respect and care."

Simply put: emotions matter.

"When my friends say, 'thank you' to me, it makes me feel happy," shares Amy, a 6-year-old first grade student.

"When students notice and care for one another, they're able to go deeper into their learning in ways they wouldn't if they didn't know how to appreciate one another."

So, while "circle time" is common to set the tone for the day at many schools, at Momentous School, staffers go deeper to show that emotions matter.

"We say 'hi' to each other, like good morning," explains Amy. "We do breathing."

It's all part of an intentional effort to grow good scholars, and good little humans, by teaching gratitude.

"We've been learning to be kind and thankful," shares 6-year-old Lauren, and then with a thoughtful pause, "and responsible."

When asked what they're thankful for, student responses were both expected and surprising.

"I'm thankful for my mom because she does everything for me," shares Isaiah, who is 6 years old, before adding that his mom "smiles and she laughs" when he remembers to show gratitude.

Matthew, a 7-year-old, says he's thankful for his parents "because we have movie nights on Fridays, and we play board games together and we play hide and seek."

Amy shared that she's also "thankful for my dad because he played dominos with me, and he helped me learn new numbers."

Surprising about the student responses? Not one mentioned a toy, a device or technology. They all seemed to treasure the gift of time. And school leaders are helping them learn to be intentional in both giving and receiving appreciation.

"Kind words are 'I love you' and `you're the best friend'," explains Matthew, "and you're doing really great."

Students write kind words and what they're thankful for on leaves that are placed on a Ms. Ytem's special classroom "gratitude tree"  teaching language skills and life lessons with evergreen impact.

"I think the quick fix-- going at the immediate needs, the reading and math skills that we're seeing that students desperately need-- if we don't build a strong foundation of who we are as people, we will find those gaps to grow as children grow older," explains Knoll. "And at the end of the day we need them to know how to do both: we need them to know how to be kind, and how to solve math problems. We need them to be able to do both."

And with an educator's imagination-- some would call it hope-- Knoll sees only an upside if all children are taught to be both grateful and kind.

"I think we'd have a world that people listened more to one another, and I think we could all use a little bit more of that, these days."

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