The Generous Classroom

When teachers apply the concept of generosity to every aspect of their classroom cultures, they are inviting Jesus to transform not only their hearts but also those of their students.

There’s no denying that teachers are burned out. Clorox Wipes, remote learning, Zoom lessons, heavy grief, and all things Covid have left most teachers feeling weary, tired, and forgetting the powerful purpose that lies in their roles as teachers. It may feel daunting to think about transitioning students back into the “normal” structure and rhythm of school after months of social distancing and isolation. But, now more than ever, students need to return to a caring classroom culture where they can feel God’s love in tangible ways. 

So, how do already overwhelmed teachers begin to reestablish positive, encouraging, and loving classroom cultures? One way is to focus on a simple concept: generosity.

We often associate the word “generosity” with money, but the truth is there are so many other ways to be generous. We can also be generous with our thoughts, words, time, influence, attention, and belongings—even in the classroom, regardless of age or background. 

Here are some simple ways teachers can foster a culture of generosity in their classrooms…


Our thoughts often set the tone for our days. Having generous thoughts towards others and ourselves positively influences the way we navigate the world and interact with people. Teachers can model giving someone the benefit of the doubt, noticing the good, and considering another’s perspective. Teachers can also include positive self-affirmations in the daily schedule. A classroom full of students that have generous thoughts towards one another and themselves is a classroom full of empathy, grace, and limitless learning.  


One kind word can change someone’s whole day. When teachers use their words to inspire, empower, and encourage their students, it creates a ripple effect. Students will notice this pattern of generous words and eventually follow suit. While negative words in classrooms still need to be addressed, educators can invest more time in celebrating the compliments, encouragement, and support that occur between students. Consistent and positive reinforcement of generous words can have a powerful impact on classroom culture.  


Giving money to others is a tangible way to put a generosity mindset into action. Whether it’s deciding what organization to support with a class service project or collecting money from teachers for a coworker in crisis, these opportunities to invest in others teach students that it truly is more of a blessing to give than to receive. Even though students do not exchange personal money within the classroom, there are many teachable moments about money and how people spend it that present themselves across core curriculums. For example, teachers can integrate the idea of generosity into critical questions during a class discussion in social studies or use examples of generosity in math problems. 


In our fast-paced world, time is precious, especially for teachers on a Monday morning when copies need to be made and emails are piling up. However, the simple act of offering five minutes of precious time before school to patiently listen to a student’s weekend story can make all the difference in a student’s day. This type of generosity can be life-changing. Teachers can also provide opportunities for their students to donate time for the benefit of others, allowing students to experience the rewards of being generous. For example, teachers can dedicate classroom time for students to mentor or model skills for “buddies” from younger grades. 


Using influence for the benefit of others is another way to be generous. Teachers can identify student’s strengths and then empower them to use those gifts to make a difference in someone else’s life. For example, teachers can call upon the outgoing students to be leaders and connectors. They can recruit advanced students to help students who struggle academically or ask compassionate students to work alongside students with special needs. Instilling these types of life-giving habits can change the trajectory of students’ lives. 


In this age of devices, social media, and nonstop technology, it’s imperative that students learn how to be generous with their attention.  Teachers can model what it looks like to be present, actively engage with others, and be in the moment. Students can practice talking with one another, intentionally devoting their complete focus and attention to their partners. Then they will get to experience the blessing of receiving attention as well as the joy resulting from giving attention to others.


While some places and items in a classroom are appropriately off limits to students, a generous culture can be promoted by designating specific supplies or resources (within reason) as communal or shared. Generosity of belongings, even if it’s something as small as sharing an eraser, can be highlighted and celebrated. If items in a classroom aren’t being used or aren’t needed anymore, the class can work together to determine how they want to bless others with these items. Showing students that belongings can be used to bless others challenges students’ perspectives of a world that often tells them otherwise.

Want more information on bringing generosity into your classroom? I Like Giving, a global leader in generosity content and education, has impacted tens of millions of lives around the world for more than a decade. They’ve created an easy-to-implement, supplemental curriculum that you can bring to your classroom in 5, 10, or 15 minutes, just a few times per week. Utilizing real, everyday stories and themes based on biblical principles, you’ll experience the transformational power of religiously-neutral generosity content in your classroom. Visit generousclassroom.com to learn more about how I Like Giving is empowering kids to live a lifestyle of generosity in their schools, homes, and communities.

Brad Formsma is best selling author, speaker, and CEO of I Like Giving, an organization that inspires people in the seven ways to live generously. 

Megan Shahabi spent 12 years as an elementary teacher and administrator in Southern California. She loves to encourage teachers and promote a positive culture in schools.


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