Superintendent’s Notebook: Count your blessings

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Although the temperatures have been unusually warm this fall, the holiday months have still arrived.

When November arrives, I look forward to one of my favorite holidays – Thanksgiving. It is one holiday that remains less commercialized than others, with the focus spent on time with family and friends.

The holiday feast dates back to November 1621, when the newly arrived Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Indians gathered at Plymouth for an autumn harvest celebration, an event regarded as America’s “first Thanksgiving.”

We have much to be grateful for in 2017 in Maine and in Regional School Unit 5. On Oct. 31, USA Today reported that 70 percent of Puerto Ricans still did not have power, six weeks after losing it. Although the recent storm in Maine was devastating, and the vast majority of schools had to close, most of us had power restored within five days. In RSU 5, students were back to the routine of learning after two days off.

Other bounties that we are thankful for in RSU 5 include the new track and field, with the hope that our athletes will be playing on it in the spring. Our fall sports teams did well. Our boys’ cross-country team earned second place in the Class B State Meet and Lily Horne finished first in the Class B girls’ state cross-country meet. The golf team had their best finish in school history, placing second in the Western Maine Conference. The boys’ and girls’ soccer teams, as well as the field hockey team, made it to the quarterfinals.

RSU 5 also had the pleasure of hosting the Maine Supreme Court, with Chief Justice Leigh Saufley presiding to hear three appeals. We offered our first “Nerd Camp,” organized by literacy strategist Susan Dee. Teachers from as far away as Canada and Pennsylvania came to participate in rich, collaborative discussions about literacy.

These are but a few of many examples of the positive happenings in RSU 5. Similar learning is taking place throughout Maine schools every day.

The research on the positive effects of gratitude reveals that an “attitude of gratitude” has many benefits. Robert Emmons’ research draws a correlation between being grateful with an increase in happiness and a reduction in depression. Other research shows gratitude correlates to improved sleep quality, more social capital, and may lead to a longer life. Grateful people are more likely to have stronger self-esteem and less likely to be resentful of other people’s accomplishments.

With all those positive effects, why not use the month of November to focus on being grateful? Let’s work to cultivate a sense of gratitude in ourselves and in our children. As you gather for supper in the evening, spend a few moments having your family focus on what they have, not complaining about what is not right with the world. It’s so easy to criticize and to forget our many blessings. Developing an attitude of gratitude costs nothing.

I feel grateful to be leading RSU 5, lucky to have good health, and I am blessed with many family and friends. I’m sure you have an equal amount of bounties in your life. So let’s spend a few minutes being grateful before we cut into that juicy roasted turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Becky Foley is superintendent of schools in Regional School Unit 5 (Freeport-Durham-Pownal). She can be reached at foleyb@rsu5.org.

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