being a teacher, being me

One Small Thing

Our house is a mess.  In between coming home from being away, the rush of two school days, the joy of Thanksgiving and now the Christmas decorations, it seems that on every surface, in every corner, there is something out of place.  A job that calls for my attention, urging me to pick up, clean up, fix, do.  It is overwhelming to simply wander, now knowing where to start.

My house reminds me so much of our work as teachers.  Everywhere we see projects half-finished, ideas calling out for us to work on them, conversations that should be had, and, indeed, children who seem to have a long way to go.  Children who we are not quite sure how we will ever get there, wherever there may be.  Children who need us in ways that we have not really discovered fully yet.  Children whose lives will be shaped by the decisions we make, whether we intend them to or not.

It is overwhelming at times, all-consuming at times, urgent at times.  Where do we start?  Where do we go?

Too often we are big idea people as teachers, and yet within this innate quality to juggle many different components at the same time also lies a dangerous mindset; the idea that we must think of all things at the same time.  The idea that if we do not constantly focus on the whole then we will never reach our destination.  It is a paralyzing mindset, one that may spur us into action at first, but then burn us out.

Yet, just like our houses, our lives whose unfinished projects call our names, we have a choice to make.  Do we sit back, looking at all of the projects calling to us, or do we simply go from one thing to the next?  Do we have an overall goal in mind, but then focus in on the one small thing we can do right now?  The child we can sit with?  The lesson we can plan for tomorrow?  The book we can read tonight?  The idea we can try right now?  The change we can when it comes to the inherent wrongs we are constantly faced with in this world?

So I propose a simple reminder today; focus on the next small thing and once that is accomplished then focus on the next small thing.  Be aware of all of the needs, but focus in on one.  Don’t force yourself into this perpetual state of overwhelmedness that seems to envelop us all as teachers, as adults.

Start small with each child focus on what you will try next right now.  The next few days.    Change a text.  Change an approach.  Try something new.  But do it one at a time.  And then pay attention to the small changes.  To the small moments that indicate successes that we so often miss when we keep our eye on the end of the year.  The growth is happening, I promise, we just have to take a moment to see it.

If you like what you read here, consider reading my book, Passionate Readers – The Art of Reaching and Engaging Every Child.  This book focuses on the five keys we can implement into any reading community to strengthen student reading experiences, even within the 45 minute English block.  If you are looking for solutions and ideas for how to re-engage all of your students consider reading my very first book  Passionate Learners – How to Engage and Empower Your Students.      Also, if you are wondering where I will be in the coming year or would like to have me speak, please see this page.

3 thoughts on “One Small Thing”

  1. I can’t fully express how badly I needed to read this today. I just spent 2 days in 75 parent teacher interviews. When I left the school today I had a list of 40 parent requests (that came out of interviews) sitting on my desk for next week. I feel like I’m drowning in my attempt to be a good teacher, never mind being a good wife and mother.
    I will be focusing on one small thing, and tonight that thing is taking care of me. Hope that you take care of yourself too.Thank you.

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