X factor


1. a noteworthy special talent or quality.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas! 

It’s Christmas Eve and as I write, I am currently back in the UK catching up with loved ones and reflecting on another very BUSY term in the desert! I was reading a post by Joe Kirby on gratitude the other day and it really struck a chord with me, in it Joe discusses the importance of teaching children to be thankful and to show their appreciation of others. Students who learn to ‘count their blessings’ reap the benefits by being happier, healthier and have a more positive attitude towards their schooling.

Recently I introduced this to my tutor group, by using this video by Soul Pancake with them in a morning registration session, ”The Science of happiness: An experiment in gratitude” .The essence of the study is that showing gratitude makes us happy.

After assessing volunteers’ current levels of happiness, Soul Pancake “scientists” asked them to write down as much as they could about the most influential people in their lives. The participants were then asked to call those people and read what they’d written to them. The experiment’s conclusion: happiness levels jump significantly when you express gratitude — especially if you’re on the lower end of the happiness scale.

Following this I got students to write in their DESC diaries about a person who influenced them and encouraged them to do as the participants had done in this experiment.

Student culture

Gratitude helps children to gain a sense of perspective. I teach in Dubai (for which I am beyond thankful), the sheer amount of opportunities, privilege and material possessions our students are afforded could mean that this environment creates a number of ‘Veruca Salts’.  Amongst some other rather unpleasant characters from Roald Dahl’s ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’, Veruca is an overindulged, selfish, young girl whose affluent parents treat her like a princess and give her anything she wants. Practicing gratitude counteracts this, it is about being aware of who or what makes positive aspects of our lives possible and acknowledging that. It is about fostering stronger, more positive relationships.

DESC students are special, I first met some when I was on interview and taught a mini lesson, they said ”thanks for the lesson miss” at the end as I was leaving and I was a little taken aback, not something I had been used to. This wasn’t a one off, teachers are pretty much thanked after every lesson, manners cost nothing and respect and showing appreciation for the work others put in, is instilled into our students from the moment they walk through the school gates. They are our best asset and right up to the last day of term 1, they did not disappoint. The highlight being the hotly anticipated annual ‘DESC Factor’, think ‘X Factor meets Britain’s got talent’…! The most heart warming moment was the student’s standing ovation for Padam, one of our talented site support officers, who put in a special performance, singing and playing his guitar. An unforgettable and special moment for him as the entire auditorium rose to their their feet in applause in gratitude.

Thank you Thursday

Other opportunities DESC students have to show their appreciation include “Thank you Thursday”. Thursday is Friday in Dubai and at the end of each week it is the turn of a particular year group to show their gratitude towards a member of staff, by sending them a card with a note of thanks. It is always uplifting to receive a card from a student, I have kept every card I have received from a student over the course of my career and it’s the little things that keep you going during a busy day/week/term. This of course works both ways, there is nothing students like more than when you show your own appreciation and that you care, with a positive phone call home or note in the planner.

 “When placed at the heart of the school ethos, small acts of gratitude are a promising way of helping children feel happy at school.” Joe Kirby

THANK YOU if you have read this post and have a HAPPY Xmas Xx

See below for Padam’s standing ovation!