Our Future Should Be Bright: Advancing a Gratitude Mindset

A gratitude mindset cultivates optimism by emphasizing not what is lacking, but what is present.

June 8, 2015. I committed malpractice while teaching Advanced Placement (AP) Environmental Science and only realized it the following year. My students struggled with the material and mutinied against me. At my wit’s end yet still eager to salvage the course, I asked for help at my Knowles Science Teaching Foundation (KSTF) spring meeting. My KSTF Program Officer for Teacher Development at the time, Paul Wendel, suggested a style of class conversation that felt radically vulnerable for me. I decided to try it — what was there to lose?

She seemed to know, to accept, to welcome her position, the citadel of the family, the strong place that could not be taken. And since old Tom and the children could not know hurt or fear unless she acknowledged hurt and fear, she had practiced denying them in herself. And since, when a joyful thing happened, they looked to see whether joy was on her, it was her habit to build up laughter out of inadequate materials. But better than joy was calm. Imperturbability could be depended upon. And from her great and humble position in the family she had taken dignity and a clean calm beauty. From her position as healer, her hands had grown sure and cool and quiet; from her position as arbiter she had become as remote and faultless in judgment as a goddess. She seemed to know that if she swayed the family shook, and if she ever really deeply wavered or despaired the family would fall, the family will to function would be gone. (p. 74)

Collective fear and shame pose risks greater than a family’s broken dreams. German citizens’ shame after WWI provided a leverage point for a young, charismatic leader who offered an antidote: superiority and nationalism. People traded their civic freedom for dictatorship, shame for nationalist pride. Shame provided an opportunity to manipulate the psyche of a nation, allowing Hitler to rise, legally, to power. Today leaders at all levels — from classroom teachers to elected officials, game designers to filmmakers — could cultivate optimism for a bright future that empowers people against the tide of shame, especially those forces being manipulated by people with nefarious intentions.

References and Citation


Benjamin, H.R. W. (2004). Foreword. In Peddiwell, J. Abner, The saber-tooth curriculum (pp. VII-XII). New York, NY: The McGraw-Hill Companies. (Original work published in 1939).


Rasmussen (née Johnson), K. (2015). Our future should be bright: Advancing a gratitude mindset. Kaleidoscope: Educator Voices and Perspectives , 2(1), pp 3–5.



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The Knowles Teacher Initiative supports the efforts of high school mathematics and science teachers to improve education in their classrooms and beyond​.