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My family and I attend Now don’t stop reading and get offended because I’ve thrown a church reference in there. This isn’t going to be churchy. Or preachy. Or holier-than-thou.

This month’s series is over Small Things, Big Differences. And although Pastor Craig IS focusing on a more church-appropriate message, I have been thinking a lot about how this phrase applies to us as teachers.

We are teaching ‘small’ people. Even if you are a high school teacher, your students are still ‘small’ in this great big world. I like to look at how long these students of mine have been alive. Seven and eight years are not a long time. Eighteen years isn’t really either. In the giant picture of people living into their seventies and eighties, even twenty-five doesn’t even seem like a long time. We need to remember that our kiddos are ‘small’ and that in order for them to make a ‘big’ difference we need to provide them with the tools of a successful life, which amounts to much more than standardized testing can ever give them.

The academics we are teaching them are a ‘small’ part of the world of learning. Combine the academics, the life principles, the socialization, the way we model appropriate behavior, the words we say, and all of these ‘small’ things can make a ‘big’ positive (or negative) impact in our students’ lives. We need to constantly be aware of the messages we are sending to our students, and to remember that the ‘small’ messages matter. Students pick up on those huffy breaths, eye rolls, sarcastic remarks and body language, just like we do. ‘Treat others the way you want to be treated’ applies to us as well. Just the smallest slip up on behavior on our part can make a huge impact on our students.

The ‘small’ things really do matter. I am a detail person. I like to focus on the ‘small’ things that I know are important to my little people. Things like the goodies in my treasure box or the new crayon form for our crayon maker. The ‘small’ things are HUGE in my students’ lives. But aside from material things, I also remember the importance of being IN the details of my students’ lives. I try very hard to remember snippets of conversations I overhear. Maybe a special trip over the weekend, or a much-anticipated sleepover. Or even the hastily written special note with a piece of candy saved from a lunchbox that is left on my desk on Friday as the student is walking out the door. These are the details I want to focus my time on. I want to be able to ask students how their weekend trip was or if they had fun at their sleepover. I like to be able to leave thank you notes for the piece of candy one of them left me. These seemingly ‘small’ things make a very ‘big’ impact on my students. They know that I take a sincere interest in what is important to them. They know that if they can trust me to remember the ‘small’ things in their lives, I will most definitely remember the ‘big’ things too.

It is so easy to get lost in the work of teaching that is heaped on us every day. We need to remind ourselves that getting lost in the ‘big’ picture overshadows what is truly important. Don’t ever discount the impact you are having on your students. All of those ‘small’ things you do every day, those things that you don’t think anyone notices, are being tallied on a daily basis. Are you setting up your students to make a ‘big’ positive difference, or a negative one?

Paula has a Masters degree in education with an emphasis on child development and child behavior....

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