Josette LeBlanc

Connections and Influences – Josette

Learning Lightness Through Photography 

& Gratitude – By Josette Leblanc

Josette Leblanc

Photography and gratitude are two practices I have come to see as inevitably intertwined and necessary in my life. They compliment each other in the sense that they are both based on beauty and celebrating life. They have given me the ability to look at the world through the eyes of wonder.

This is something I used to do easily until one day realize I had lost it. How do you lose this ability? For me it started seeping away when I began taking life much too seriously.  I only became aware of this after months of being in what I called “a funk”. This isn’t the funky kind of funk. This is the kind of funk that brings you and the people around you down. Funk also found me in the classroom. Life got a bit too discouraging, and so did my outlook on education.

Trying to get myself out of this funk, I spent some of my free time listening to Tara Brach’s podcasts. Her teachings on mindfulness are insightful, humorous and practical. In her podcast “1000 serious moves” it seemed like she was speaking directly to me. She explored ways to help people see life with greater lightness. One of the ways was to find a gratitude partner. The concept is simple: email a friend every night with 5 things you are grateful for. Intellectually understanding how gratitude could brighten up my life, I emailed my dear friend Anne Hendler (check out her insightful reflections on learning and teaching at Living Learning) to see if she wanted to embark on this journey with me. We’ve now been gratitude buddies since September 2012, emailing each other with five moments of gratitude almost everyday. Here was in one of my latest gratitude lists:

  • I feel grateful that my body sends me clear signs of when I’m going too far and that I am now able to recognize that.
  • I feel grateful for that little photography boost this morning.
  • I feel grateful that some of the teachers wrote narratives that can serve as examples to those who didn’t really get the theme.
  • I feel grateful for the laughter in today’s French lesson (a shock language lesson to help the teacher-trainees see the language learning process through the eyes of a beginner).
  • I feel grateful that my French lesson did what it was supposed to do: plant seeds.

My intellectual understanding of this practice has now turned into a deeper understanding. Gratitude has led me to seeing things with greater lightness. Objects and moments I once passed without notice now become objects of curiosity. Through the lens of gratitude everything shines brighter. However, this isn’t only a metaphorical lens.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”  – Melody Beattie

I also see this gratitude through my camera’s lens. Most of my photography is based on seeing the beauty in ordinary, simple moments: fallen autumn leaves or cherry blossom petals; abandoned shoes; stray cats; sunbeams on brick walls. I may be walking to the subway, and a strange shape or bright color catches my eye. Or I may be walking through campus and the yellow gingko trees beg for me to capture them. When I take a closer look at what at first glance may seem unexceptional, I find quite the opposite. Through my view screen, I see magic.


Gratitude has a similar magical quality. When each day you have to find five things that you are grateful for, you start being surprised at all the magic that is already in your life. The more gratitude I explore, the more it comes out in my photography. The more beauty I see through my viewfinder, the more gratitude I have.

It’s hard to pinpoint how all this has directly affected my teaching, but one thing I sense is that a teacher filled with lightness must be easier to connect with than a teacher filled with darkness. I feel grateful to see glimpses of this lightness. To see see some of this gratitude for yourself, check out my personal blog, Private Mixture, or find me on Instagram. –  Josette Leblanc

Josette LeBlanc is an English language teacher and teacher trainer who currently teaches in Daegu, South Korea. She’s curious about reflective practice, compassionate communication, and teacher development done both online and offline. She believes learning, whether it happens in or out of the classroom, is a process of discovery and transformation.  Read more work from Josette on her always wonderful blog Throwing Back Tokens 

Connect with Josette and other iTDi Mentors, Associates, and Faculty by joining the  iTDi Community.  Sign Up For A Free iTDI Account to create your profile and get immediate access to iTD’s social forums and trial lessons from our English For Teachers and Teacher Development Courses. Once you sign up for a free account, you have the option of becoming a Full iTDi Member  for your local equivalent of $9 US a month. Find out more about the benefits of Full iTDi Membership and see why it’s such  a good investment in your personal professional development.



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Josette LeBlanc

Josette LeBlanc is an English language teacher and teacher trainer who currently teaches in Daegu, South Korea. She's curious about reflective practice, compassionate communication, and teacher development done both online and offline. She believes learning, whether it happens in or out of the classroom, is a process of discovery and transformation.  Blog: Throwing Back Tokens  Twitter & Instagram: @JosetteLB

17 thoughts on “Connections and Influences – Josette”

  1. As I read your post, I find my smile getting wider and wider. Life through a lens of gratitude is a wonderful thing. Thank you for being my gratitude buddy, and for making me smile today. 🙂

    1. 1. I feel grateful that this post made you smile.
      2. I feel grateful that you left this comment.
      3. I feel grateful that you are my gratitude buddy.
      4. I feel grateful for your curiosity around gratitude.
      5. I feel grateful that I was able to write this post and share it with you.

      Josette XO

  2. I am grateful to you, Josette. You helped me understand why I got stuck that evening when I was playing a tennis match and suddenly saw the beauty of the sunset.
    Thank you Josette

    1. What a wonderful way to get stuck Debbie!

      I am also grateful to you. Your comments always make me smile. 🙂 They make the writing and sharing process so much more fun.

      It’s hard to imagine that we met over a year ago via our notebooks! So grateful for that too.


  3. Hi Josette and Anne and Debbie (and the many other people who are sure to comment),

    I also read this and felt a wave of gratitude just rolling right through me. It is amazing how certain emotions, caring, love, patience, and gratitude, just to name a few, not only connect us to each other, but remain with us, passed from person to person without being depleted.

    Thank you for sharing what makes you grateful.


    1. That’s a beautiful way of looking at it, “remain with us, passed from person to person without being depleted.” Those emotions are like life lines aren’t they. Today I was watching at talk by Dan Siegel (can’t believe this is the first time I hear about him Grateful that I finally have.), and he spoke about the parts of the brain (prefrontal cortex?) that make it so that humans actually need each other in order to survive. It would seem that the emotions you describe are part of that evolutionary connection making.

      I feel grateful that you gave me the space to look at emotions this way. 🙂


  4. Find a gratitude partner. What a simple yet brilliant idea. Thanks for the post Josette. Inspirational as always.

    1. Thank you for saying that Barry. Knowing that you felt inspired is inspiring. Ahhh, the cyclical rewards of giving and receiving. Thank you for reminding me of this. 🙂

  5. I really enjoyed reading this. Very inspiring! I like the idea of creating stories around abandoned shoes. Here’s a couple pictures I’ve taken of shoes left on the street. The first one is actually of my shoes -I left them on a street corner in NYC after I got soaked from some unexpected summer rain. Perhaps somebody thought of an interesting story about them 😉
    This second picture is of some shoes I saw recently here in China. I loved how the light that afternoon and had to take a picture of them This all sounds really random when you just talk of shoes left on the street, but it’s all very magical when you realize that you’re observing more than ever and finding beauty in the unexpected.

    Again, thanks for this wonderful post!

    1. Hello Laura!

      First, apologies for not replying earlier. I only saw this recently. Thank you so much for reading and for connecting.

      What sweet red shoes! One shoe mystery solved. 🙂 Thank you for sharing!

      It’s so exciting to meet a teacher who connects to my love of photographing beauty in the unexpected…especially random shoes. 🙂 In the end it is really about seeing the magic in life isn’t it?

      Happy photographing!

  6. I’m grateful to iTDI for giving us the opportunity to be inspired by you. This is the Internet at its very best, letting us draw strength and inspiration from people so many miles away!
    Thanks !
    Naomi (@naomishema)

    1. Hello Naomi!

      Thank you so much for the kind words. 🙂 I am happy to inspire and grateful that you shared this gratitude. I am grateful for that. 🙂 The internet is truly an amazing space for such giving.

      I am also honored that you comment in this way, especially considering the visual work you are doing with your students. I look forward to reading more about how you help your students visualize language. “I even have reading comprehension exercises based on pictures”, I need to see that post. 🙂

      Happy visualizing Naomi!

  7. Great post Jos! I want to find a gratitude buddy – I’d ask you if you weren’t already taken! I also love love love Tara Brach’s podcasts – so insightful, funny and wise. I’ve linked to you on my latest blog post – love the quote you posted here by Melody Beattie. Is she someone I should know about? Hugs!

    1. Thanks Hailey! I highly recommend finding one. It shifted my whole perspective on life. Truly healing. You and I can share gratitude in other ways…. referring to our latest interaction

      And you know, I really don’t know anything about Melodie Beattie. This quote came into my inbox via I’ve subscribed to this for years. I love it! Actually I put a recent quote from Rumi in my gratitude jar. But now I’m curious about her. This is what I found so far.

      Thanks for your love of gratitude Hailey! It’s inspiring.


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