The benefits of joy and gratitude

by Joseph S. Pizzo

At the initial NCTE SCOA meeting, the theme was “Joy.” It was defined as “the feeling that acknowledges satisfaction in oneself and in others as well.” During this pandemic, the main direction was identified as a critical component of both the personalities and the lives of all educators and families. 

We wrote about the topic of joy. We discussed our writings in both breakout rooms and a full meeting. Here is my note.

“Joy is reflected in the woman raising the child. We uplift as we mentor, but we gain from those we mentor as well. We experience confluencia as joy flows inward, but the experience is even greater when the confluencia follows its natural course and flows outwardly to share that which it has gained previously.”

At the second SCOA meeting held later in the day, we examined an article entitled, “How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain.” Breakout rooms were again used so the article could be discussed in assigned sections. The notes from my group are as follows:

  • Positive emotion words, negative emotion words, and “we” words (first-person plural words) that participants used in their writing have an impact.  
  • The gratitude writing group used a higher percentage of positive emotion words and “we” words.
  • The lack of negative emotion words—not the abundance of positive—explained the mental health gap between the gratitude writing group and the other writing group.
  • Gratitude letter writing produces better mental health by shifting one’s attention away from toxic emotions.

Having a positive outlook and avoiding toxic thoughts and situations was found to lessen the use of toxic words in one’s daily lexicon. According to the authors Joshua Brown and Joel Wong, “many studies over the past decade have found that people who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed.” The experimental group in the study wrote letters of gratitude while the control group did not.

The research study that was conducted by Brown and Wong involved “nearly 300 adults, mostly college students who were seeking mental health counseling at a university. We recruited these participants just before they began their first session of counseling, and, on average, they reported clinically low levels of mental health at the time. The majority of people seeking counseling services at this university in general struggled with issues related to depression and anxiety.” 

The main findings made in the article are as follows:

  1. Gratitude unshackles us from toxic emotions.
  2. Gratitude helps (the individual) even if you don’t share it (in some form with others).
  3. Gratitude’s benefits… (emerge slowly over) time.
  4. Gratitude has lasting effects on the brain. (“…when people who are generally more grateful gave more money to a cause, they showed greater neural sensitivity in the medial prefrontal cortex, a brain area associated with learning and decision making. This suggests that people who are more grateful are also more attentive to how they express gratitude.”)

The authors of the article conclude that “practicing gratitude may help train the brain to be more sensitive to the experience of gratitude down the line, and this could contribute to improved mental health over time.”

I shall conclude my report by sharing the note of gratitude that I have written to my colleagues at NJCTE. 

Dear Friends,

I am grateful to all of you, my colleagues at NJCTE. We consistently have a range of different tasks to address and complete. It is important to know, however, that we gather our talents and combine our efforts to help any of us who may be in need. We acknowledge the commitments made to our organization and our membership by readily offering to help any member who may be in need. The unselfish nature of our organization makes me proud to be a member.

Thank you, NJCTE for your kindness of heart, your generosity of spirit, and your willingness to give of yourself to help others in need. 


Joe Pizzo

The benefits of joy and gratitude

NCTE Historian Speech by NJCTE Board Member Joseph Pizzo

We at NCTE are people. People who form a Village through outreach, conferences, our website, and social media to discuss issues and challenges every day. Some issues are relatively new while others pose historically similar challenges. We are stories of teaching. We are resources, communities, and groups.

“NCTE amplifies the voice of educators through personal connection, collaboration, and a shared mission to improve the teaching and learning of English and language arts at all levels.” We continue to pursue this mission with serious commitment, undaunted determination, and a bit of creativity that combine to analyze problems and challenges, generate alternatives and solutions, and discover practical procedures to address these problems.  

Literacy continues to be an issue facing us educators at all levels of instruction and across all curricula. To the challenge to increase the frequency of and fluency when  reading, we add digital literacy challenged by a siren’s song broadcast on social media, online games, and streaming. Falling reading scores and the lack of preparation of students entering high school and college fails to consider the impact of some other powerful siren’s songs. Low status is given to reading in many modern households as daily activity schedules fill much of the time that was spent in the past for family reading and homework completion and review. Add poverty to this mix, and the recipe creates a daunting challenge requiring the commitment of all members of society, not simply the schools and NCTE. 

The issues of writing continue to be a challenge as social media outlets featuring acronyms such as “LOL,” “OMG,” and “IMHO” have placed style over substance and actual conversation. For those of us who in our youth never used the word “texting” as a gerund, “IMHO” means “In My Humble Opinion.” Texting is an effective way to communicate, but it must not replace actual conversation. “IMHO.” 

Issues of diversity continue to challenge us daily both at NCTE and throughout the nation. The emergence of LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual or Ally) poses problems of acceptance. These challenges are not dissimilar to the ones NCTE has faced courageously in the past when dealing with issues of prejudice according to nationality and gender. Some of these issues that led to racially-biased book banning in the past not only continue, but they also contain bans placed on literature that provides a voice to the LGBTQIA community. NCTE believes that tolerance is insufficient. Rather, acceptance must be mandated without exception.

William Faulkner states: “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. asserts, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” For us at NCTE, silence “about things that matter” has never been an option.   

Moving forward, NCTE continues to revise its official positions in areas including advocacy, equity, and pedagogy. In the coming year, I hope to create a podcast to chat with our Executive Director Emily Kirkpatrick and another to gain perspective on the challenges historically faced by our former NCTE Presidents. As our history proves, our commitment to amplifying “the voice of educators through personal connection, collaboration, and a shared mission to improve the teaching and learning of English and language arts at all levels,” will not be compromised in any way – ever. 

As we learn from the past and move into the future, we shall continue to serve as advocates for excellence while maintaining our commitment to improving “the teaching and learning of English and language arts at all levels.”

NCTE Historian Speech by NJCTE Board Member Joseph Pizzo

Join NJCTE at NJEA, NCTE and CEL Conventions

Are you planning to attend the NJEA Convention in Atlantic City? Share your experiences with us using #NJCTE18 and tag us @NJCTENews.

NJCTE is sponsoring two presentations at NJEA this year:

  • Joe Pizzo will present “Get a Grant the Write Way” on Thursday, November 8, 3:15-4:45 PM, in room 413.
  • Audrey Fisch and Susan Chenelle will present “Teaching Inequality to Encourage Students to Speak About Justice” on Friday, November 9, 9:45-11:15 AM, in room 402.

NJCTE board member Katie Nieves will also present two sessions: “Giving Into the Hyperdocs Hype” on Friday, November 9, 10:00-10:50 AM, in the Teacher to Teacher Learning Area, and “Google Tools to Help Struggling Learners” on Friday, November 9, 1:30-3:00 PM in room 317.

And NJCTE board members Pat Schall and Susan Reese will be onsite to meet with NJCTE members and prospective members. Come see us!
Continue reading “Join NJCTE at NJEA, NCTE and CEL Conventions”

Join NJCTE at NJEA, NCTE and CEL Conventions

Summer Professional Development Opportunity

We are sharing the following as an opportunity that might interest NJCTE members and other NJ educators.

NJAMLE is offering three half-day morning PD sessions this summer in the north central, and southern part of NJ. Middle level teachers and administrators from all disciplines will have the opportunity to learn from some of the best middle level educators who will share their best practices. In addition to workshops sponsored by NJ Literacy Association,  NJ Future Ready Schools, and NJ Schools to Watch, teaching tips, strategies, and resources will be explored in the areas of coding digital literacy, student choice, differentiation, and more. In addition, NJCTE Board Member Joe Pizzo will share his 44 years of classroom experience as he demonstrates various methods to blend fun with the fundamentals in ELA classrooms through cross-curricular and skill-specific activities.  Learn, connect, and share this summer with other Middle Level educators. Come spend the morning discussing hot Middle School topics such as:

  • NJ Literacy Association
  • NJ Future Ready Schools
  • NJ Schools to Watch
  • Google Tools & Tricks
  • Computational Thinking & Coding
  • The Student-Centered Classroom
  • Math Instruction in the Middle
  • Formative Assessment Strategies
  • Digital Literacy & Connected Reading
  • Improving Literacy with Text Sets
  • Empowering the Struggling Learner
  • Student Choice through PBL
  • Integrating STEM Throughout the Curriculum
  • Positive Behavior Supports in School (PBSIS)
  • Technology Integration & Application Ideas
  • Differentiation Strategies that Work

These workshops will be held throughout New Jersey during July and August. There is no cost for NJAMLE individual members, for faculty at a school that has a membership, and for pre-service teachers. Non-members will be charged $20. For more information, go to

New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English

Summer Professional Development Opportunity

NJCTE Fall Conference – This Saturday!

There is still time to register! Sign up now for 3 PD hours, a bento boxed lunch prepared by Wegman’s, and a whirlwind of SPARKs.

Here again are the details.  

WHEN:    October 28, 2017  from 8:30 A.M. – 1:00 P.M.

WHERE:  Chapin School, 4101 Princeton Pike, Princeton, NJ

WHAT:     You’ll see SPARKs and hear “make it and take it” classroom                    suggestions about writing.  “Warming Up to Writing” will start the day with Dana Maloney.

This conference will give inside tips on writing — for the journal; for e-Focus, the NJCTE Newsletter of Excellence; for our newly established NJCTE blog, and for helping students to enter our NJCTE Writing Contest.

You will hear from Kate Baker, Tina Monteleone, Christina Regua, and Joseph Pizzo. Patricia Schall will discuss intellectual freedom.  And more!

Liz deBeer, editor of the New Jersey English Journal, one of seven journals named a Journal of Excellence by NCTE, will recognize contributing writers and award certificates for the editorial staff and for the journal contributors. Journals will be on sale.

Register at The price for non-members is $20. The price for members is $10.

Posted by Audrey Fisch, blog editor for NJCTE

New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English

NJCTE Fall Conference – This Saturday!