Teenaged Gratitude (classroom surveys yield surprising results)

“People who are never asked to consider what they are grateful for will continue to experience what they’ve always experienced, but fail to feel the happiness gratitude adds to that experience.” ~KW

Some people worry about the rising generation.

To many, they seem detached, addicted to the numbing escapism of electronic devices, entitled and ungrateful, somehow shallower than past generations, impatient, lazy, voyeuristic and disrespectful. Their language is coarse and vulgar. Their music is inundated with overtones of sex and violence. Their icons are often rude, self-destructive, self-indulgent and exhibitionistic.

And yet there is a shining glimmer of hope that pierces the coarseness of modern youth culture.

Every year, before my high school seniors head out for Thanksgiving vacation, I ask them to list the 10 things in their lives they are most grateful for. Some moan and groan and roll their eyes. Then they start to think.

Perhaps for the first time in their lives they are asked to pull life out of the shadows of neglect, to stop taking everything for granted and feel for a moment the joy and happiness of gratitude.

This post is a sampling of their responses, categorized and largely unedited. They offer hope that the next generation will be okay, perhaps exceptionally so.

The Expected and Unexpected

Some of the responses were repeated by nearly all my students. Almost everyone listed family and friends and somewhere to live. Others were, well, unique. Only one mentioned being thankful for their legible penmanship. Another was grateful for brain cells. One student was thankful for hair.

Others were no surprise coming from a bunch of teenagers: TV, movies, technology, internet, video games and cell phones.

A few gave me pause. One wrote that she was thankful her mother did not abort her or her brother. She had planned to, but in the end, didn’t. I’m not sure why she would know such a thing, but it’s definitely something to be grateful for.

I’ve been inspired (and at times entertained) by their responses and hope you will be too. Let me know in the comments.

What High School Students are Grateful for


I’m thankful for…

My crazy girlfriend
That regardless of what I have done, my friends and family still love and accept me
Friends feeding me
Friends who put me first
Loyal friends
For all my friends that need my support
My friends because I don’t know why they have stuck around
Family and friends and teachers … almost every day
Parents who love and encourage me
Everyone who has ever inspired me to do better
Being around such motivated and awesome people
Those who help me succeed in life
My grandparents who are always there for me
My family who inspires me
People who will always defend me when needed
My little brother
Having a second family everywhere I go
Santa Clause
Everyone who has influenced me to be a better person
A loving, understanding and encouraging family
A mother who deals with me and puts me before herself
Cousins who are practically my sisters
People who care
Everything and everyone who has made me the person I am today
My parents never giving up on me
Doctors who help children
Those that have written me college letters of recommendation
Passionate teachers
Teachers being there as guides
Teachers who care about me
Teachers who act like my parents away from home
Teachers like you Mr. Wert—can I get an A+ for that?
Pretty girls
A family that is together and close to each other
That my parents are so strong and smart and sacrificed so much for me
My loving girlfriend
My brother who is a Marine
Having met so many inspirational people throughout my life
Time spent with family over the holidays
Tax payers who pay for our education
A brother who always listens to my rants
My twin sister
Having a large family
My beautiful, kind, caring, loving and supportive family
For everyone that has come into my life
The awesomest best friend
Spending time with people I love
Not living with my father
My baby sister
My niece

Character and Religion

I’m thankful for…

Generosity in people
Church, because it influences my actions
Being brought up with morals
My beliefs
My religion
Being able to love unconditionally
For putting a smile on everyone’s faces whenever they’ve had a bad day
God’s mercy
My faith
Reasonable punishment
Understanding the difference between right and wrong
The ability to love
Being able to help others
Everything I’ve been blessed with
Thankful to know God
Religious freedom
My morals
Opportunities to serve my school and life’s lessons
Peace, equality, help, hope, integrity and strength

Talents and Passions

I’m thankful for…

My artistic abilities
My music school that taught me to play guitar
Knowing how to cook for myself


I’m thankful for…

Food in the fridge and enough food to survive
Clothes on my back and warm water to shower with
My bed, water and clothes to wear


I’m thankful for…

Freedoms and liberties
Getting Thanksgiving week off
Having no more fines
Not being attacked when I go down the street
Vacation plans
Being born without disease
Being able to wake up not worrying about whether or not I am going to die
Living in California where there are no whether problems
That I live in the US
Being able to wake up every morning
That my parents are employed
A job
Financial stability
Not being as sick as much as least week


I’m thankful for…

For my mother who helps fulfill my fashion needs
My dad’s car, even though it breaks down every other month
Extracurricular activities
Animated movies
Having a car
My own room
A driver’s license
My cat
Our generation
The Constitution
My lizard
Morrissey and the Smiths
Girly shopping stores
Glitter, sunflowers, fries and chips
Italian and Mexican food
Cleaning—toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant
Non-student days

Heart, Body and Mind

I’m thankful for…

The ability to think for myself
My intelligence
A healthy body and mind
For all my experiences in my life
Unconditional love
For being alive
Passing calculus with a “B”
A happy life
The ability to think
Being healthy because I know people who want to run, wrestle and jump hurdles but can’t.
Arms, legs, hands and a brain that works
Eyes that can see
Mouth that can speak
A nose


I’m thankful for…

Those who find good even when things get bad
Opportunities I have to pursue my dreams
For each day I wake up be it good or bad
For my optimistic mind
All the little moments
How I make people laugh—it makes me feel like I did something awesome that day
My dad punishing me for being disobedient


I’m thankful for…

My past experiences because they make me who I am today
Knowing my life is always in my hands
Knowing every day is another choice, another gift
The beauty of nature
Free time
Past experiences
Getting hired without any experience
Being a functional human being
Every breath of life I have
Having a voice that I can always use
My identity
That I can live freely, able to write this and enjoy my life
That I’m the person I am

Your Turn …

One of my students ended her list with this question:

What are you thankful for, Mr. Wert?

You can find my responses here and here (but be warned, they won’t be what you would expect).

Now I ask you the same question: What are you thankful for?