Teaching is tough these days. No doubt about it. This blog post is not intended to minimize the very real suffering felt by teachers across Arizona. But it is meant to maximize the very real impact teachers are having on students and the school community.
As a teacher I remember being told, “It’s the little things that make a difference.” And I remember thinking that was BS. There was no way smiling at a kid in the morning or answering an angry parent email with compassion was making any kind of difference.
Ha, ha! Joke’s on me. Because now that I’m an administrator, I absolutely see the huge impact that those little things make.
Allow me to list a few “little things” I see teachers doing that makes a much bigger difference that they probably know:
- Giving a kid a sticker for doing just one thing right, even though there were a dozen things he did wrong in the last ten minutes.
- Sending students home with artwork. If you could see the pride in the eyes of the kids as they come out of the school holding their work. And the joy in the eyes of the parents as they come through the parent pick-up line. It’s pretty magical.
- Assigning self-reflective writing prompts when students break classroom norms.
- Willingly taking on an extra duty when their colleague is out sick.
- Emailing admin right away when there’s something that needs attention.
- Adding humor to direct instruction.
- Analyzing student work—looking beyond handwriting and seeing the students’ thinking in their math problems.
- Offer to help sweep the hallways.
These “little things” all happened within the last two days. It might have been hard for these teachers to go the extra steps, but the impact is real. When kids feel seen and appreciated for the many individualities they show rather than being labled as “bad” or “lazy” they are more likely to develop positive traits. When parents feel heard and understood, they are more likely to collaborate with us to solve problems. When teachers feel empowered to take ownership of their profession and act as leaders, they set an example.
Yes, it takes something out of you when you go further than you’re comfortable going. But it gives a huge amount to the community. Which hopefully gives back to you when you’re sick, or sad, or worn out, or make a mistake. Our community is here for you. And it thanks you for all the little things you do.
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