5 Priceless Gifts for Students


Billions of dollars were spent by shoppers in the United States over the Thanksgiving weekend. The packages that arrived on my front porch - practically before the pumpkin pie was served - was evidence that I was one of the millions of online consumers wrapped up in the Black Friday/Cyber Monday frenzy.

Upon reflection, I soon realized all the toys and other gifts that I so badly needed to buy for my two little boys were unnecessary. My 17-month old, Owen, would be as happy as a Powerball winner if he found a stack of post-it notes and a roll of toilet paper in his stocking this year. He gets the biggest, most mischievous smile on his face when I catch him playing in our cat’s food and water bowls. And, washing dishes in the kitchen sink fills Owen with pride for being so “helpful”. The unconditional love, guidance, and stability behind the everyday experiences are the gifts my boys truly want and need – even if they don’t realize it yet.

Like parents, teachers provide a countless number of gifts for their students - gifts students might not fully comprehend the value of now but will be grateful for - and will continue to reap the benefits of - in the future. Below are five examples of those gifts to serve as a reminder that your everyday teaching efforts make a big difference in the lives of children.

Gift #1 – Reading Aloud

Award-winning and beloved children’s author, Kate DiCamillo (Because of Winn Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux) recently shared a personal school experience involving the power of reading aloud in this 3-minute PBS News Hour segment.

According to Reach Out & Read, reading aloud to children builds motivation, curiosity, and memory; helps them cope during times of stress and anxiety; enlarges and enhances the world of children; and creates a positive association with books and reading for a lifetime.

There truly is something magical about a good story! (Head over to our blog archives for read-aloud book titles to promote kindness, empathy, friendship, and other positive behaviors.)

Gift #2 – Connections

Establishing a strong classroom community by making connections with and among students enables them to feel safe, which leads to taking more academic risks to challenge themselves to grow and learn at a deeper level. Academic risks involve making mistakes – and learning from those mistakes – building resilience within students. The benefits of making connections are plentiful! Be inspired to cultivate creative ways to make connections in your classroom by these kindergarten students in Texas.

Gift #3 – Movement Breaks

Physical activity is a proven way of refocusing and re-energizing everyone involved. Movement breaks can be as simple as standing up to stretch, striking a fun yoga pose, or taking a quick lap around the school. (Check out GoNoodle which provides fun, free online videos to get kids moving.)

Movement breaks are well worth the short amount of time invested -  leading to better performance on tests and other academic tasks, reduced ADHD symptoms, and enhanced creativity and concentration. The “gifts” involved with physical activity can last a lifetime.

Gift #4 – Awareness

Have you ever walked into a room and reached for the light switch only to realize the light was already on? In our fast-paced world, filled with electronic devices that enable us to multi-task, we so often miss out on what’s happening in the present moment.

Mindfulness exercises such as engaging the five senses and focusing on breathing can bring clarity to our minds and can relax our bodies, making us feel more calm, happy, and productive with our work. Two of my favorite go-to activities to promote awareness for myself and students include the 4-7-8 breathing exercise (breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 7 seconds, breathe out for 8 seconds, repeat) and practicing mindfulness with chocolate. Give them a try with your own students!

Gift #5 – Civility

Showing appreciation, sharing credit, smiling, expressing gratitude, acknowledging others, and saying “hello” are all examples of civility that teachers work to instill on students every day. In this TEDx, researcher, Christine Porath, studied the effects of civility and incivility and shares eye-opening insights about the impact actions have on ourselves and on others. She explains how civil people are viewed as leaders, competent, and smart. (You won’t find these gifts in a Black Friday advertisement.)

Teachers, thank you for all the gifts you provide for students each and every day. You are truly making a positive impact with the care, dedication, inspiration, and support that goes into your everyday teaching efforts. Happiest Holidays wishes to you and yours!




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Jill Rockwell
Jill has over 13 years of experience as a licensed teacher in the areas of Special Education, Reading Education, and Health Education. She embraces diversity and has worked with students in grades K-12 in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California. Jill completed her Master of Science degree at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls while teaching full time. She fully understands the soaring demands of today’s teachers. Her courses are designed to maximize the time of all educators by providing engaging, meaningful, and applicable activities which can be used to enhance teaching practices. She focuses on research-based best practices and technology integration throughout her own instructional practices. Together with her husband and two young boys, Jill enjoys traveling, biking and the changing seasons of the great outdoors in Wisconsin. 

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