The sign you see here hangs in my living room. It greets me every morning as I stumble past on my way to the kitchen to get the coffee that starts my day. It welcomes me home every evening, that sign. Watches over us as we hang out, watching TV or eating or talking or reading. It hangs there, that sign. Right there it hangs as I start to do a little work or think about the things at school that I didn’t quite have time to do today. Or those big things I have coming up…..Yeah, like that thing. I really have to block off some time for that one tomorrow.
Where does it go, our time? I wonder that a lot. And as I wonder, that sign hangs, still and quiet. Reminding me to slow down. To notice the little things. The little things that hide inside our days, like tiny glass spheres filled with big, magnificent moments that we can only discover if we look for those little things first. And sometimes, when we are super busy or pressed for time and we just don’t stop to think about those little things….well, sometimes we get lucky. Sometimes one of those little things happens by, right smack dab in the middle of something there it is, right in front of us. And then just like that, right before our eyes, we see it. And we see the big, magnificent moment that is hidden right there…hidden just inside that one little thing. This is about one of those big little things.
I sat down at the desk just inside her classroom, paper and pen in hand as I prepared to take notes and capture data for this teacher’s annual evaluation. As I observed, this teacher let students know that for this particular activity, they would be using nonfiction text. That they would be selecting their own text from the stack of books and magazines that had been placed on the back table. Stacks and piles about all kinds of things, written at all kinds of levels. The students were to use their strategy for selecting a “just right” book and to find one that appealed to them, one that sparked their interest. And then off they went, these excited kids. Off they went to rummage through the piles looking, searching, hoping to find that one interesting book … that “just right” book…that book that fits them. And then…..he found it. I watched as this student grabbed up a book, opened and scanned the pages to make sure it wasn’t too easy or too hard and then….once he discovered that this book was indeed just right for him, he clutched it to his chest and headed back to his desk, just to the right of where I sat. And as he walked toward his desk, clutching that book, I heard that teacher call after him, “Did you find one you liked?” As he excitedly held it up that teacher smiled and said, “Ah, yes! Wonderful! I thought of you as I was picking that one out.”
And as he turned back around to sit at his desk, I saw his face. And his whole face was smiling. Smiling because he had found a book on a favorite topic. Smiling because that book was just right for him, which meant he could take it. Smiling, because his teacher had specifically thought of him when choosing that book to bring to the table for this ordinary lesson, on this ordinary day. Smiling, because his teacher had thought of him, period.
In the midst of the day, the life, the 20 other kids. In that moment, that “I thought of you when I did that” moment….his teacher didn’t just pick a book. His teacher picked a book for him. His teacher had said, “You matter”. “You are important”. “You are unique”. “I know you”. “I love you”.
This teacher did much more than just choose a book. And that, I have a feeling, was the real reason behind that smile….that big, can’t hide it smile that was on his face as he returned to his seat and dove right into that book. His book. Chosen for him.
I think we educators have the greatest job in the world. We are surrounded by big opportunities that like to hide themselves inside all our little moments. And these moments, they move quickly. They weave in and out of our classrooms, up and down the halls, around and around our days like those fast moving hands that circle the clocks on our walls. The clocks that count off those little moments, one by one. Around and around they go, minute by minute. Hour by hour. Sometimes, we get so caught up in how fast those hands move past those little moments. In all those things we have to do, all those things our kids must accomplish and yes, indeed. Those moments do move fast. Time marches on and we march with it. We are stretched thin by big things like curriculum and TEKS and STAAR testing and standards and PLCs and parent conferences and meetings and … well, you know the rest. We have such. little. time. to accomplish all that we must accomplish. To make sure that which is supposed to happen, happens. Those moments go by so fast and there are so many things and… we just don’t have time. We just don’t have time, with all the big things on our plates, we just don’t have time to make sure they all happen. There just isn’t time.
Or … is there?
“Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you will look back and realize they were the big things.”