It’s the Little Things That Lift Us Up
When the Big Things Bring Us Down

Recent­ly I had “one of those days” in room 212. A day that brought me to tears and had my heart aching. Dri­ving away from school on a Fri­day after­noon I knew my fun week­end plans would be inter­rupt­ed now and again by thoughts of my kids and some of the tough stuff going on. The same kind of tough stuff every sin­gle teacher has to deal with on occa­sion. If we’re lucky, these sticky sit­u­a­tions are few and far between. Unfor­tu­nate­ly how­ev­er, in some class­rooms and schools, they hap­pen on a reg­u­lar basis.

I’m one of the lucky ones. Expe­ri­enc­ing “one of those days” is a rare thing in room 212. Back in the day when I was a rook­ie teacher fac­ing a rough day (or week or month!), I would strug­gle to keep things in per­spec­tive. How­ev­er, that old adage is true … with age comes wis­dom. After 27 years of teach­ing, I now have a nifty way of deal­ing with the big things that so eas­i­ly bring teach­ers down. My secret is to sim­ply focus on the lit­tle things, those often-over­looked perks of being a teacher that have the poten­tial to lift you up even on the dark­est days.

Let’s start with the love notes from kids. My favorites are the ones on tiny pieces of paper or post it notes. Although they typ­i­cal­ly don’t show­case per­fec­tion in the area of spelling, my guess is just about every teacher has received a sim­i­lar “thank you” for being “grate” or “speshul.” I can pret­ty much guar­an­tee that folks who work in the pri­vate sec­tor do not get this kind of affir­ma­tion from their co-work­ers. I actu­al­ly have sev­er­al love notes taped onto the sun visor in my car — impor­tant reminders of why I love my job as I begin and end my days.

Next on the “lit­tle things” list, is the proof that kids are some of the kind­est and coolest peo­ple on the plan­et. My case in point includes a “busi­ness plan” one of my stu­dents is work­ing on dur­ing writ­ing time. This lit­tle phil­an­thropic entre­pre­neur is devel­op­ing an idea called “Help­ing Paws,” a fundrais­ing ven­ture to make toys and treats for cats and dogs. The mon­ey raised will be donat­ed to an ani­mal shel­ter. The plan cov­ers lists for every­thing from “set up” to “peopol” to “decrashons” and “stuff we need.” I’ll be hon­est, I don’t know that this busi­ness plan has what it takes to suc­ceed, but just know­ing that I’m sur­round­ed by 8- and 9‑year olds, who are cre­ative and car­ing enough to envi­sion the plan, warms my heart.

Humor may be the hard­est thing to find when life as a teacher becomes over­whelm­ing, but trust me, it’s there. It may be “kid-fun­ny” and not exact­ly the thing that brings deep bel­ly laughs for the adults in the room, but if you look for signs of it, you will find it. My exam­ple for this “lit­tle things” cat­e­go­ry is the WARNING sign a cou­ple of boys added inside the cov­er of the book series they are col­lab­o­rat­ing on. They thought this was hilar­i­ous and I did too:

Warnig: Pay attention
extrem sour
for mrs. rome.

Dear mrs. rome
eat this
war­head Befor
Read­ing this

I can just see those two guys chuck­ling as they taped that piece of can­dy to the page and it makes me smile.

Final­ly, I turn to the evi­dence that proves teach­ers belong to a pro­fes­sion that this world needs now more than ever. Teach­ers do make a dif­fer­ence when it comes to inspir­ing good­ness and spread­ing love. My class cel­e­brat­ed “World Kind­ness Day” and earned a “card­board cre­ation par­ty” last month. The poster (at the begin­ning of this arti­cle) and card­board sign cre­at­ed by two of my stu­dents for the two spe­cial events mean more to me than a test score or per­for­mance review ever could. Although there are many times we teach­ers may won­der if any­thing we say to our stu­dents is reg­is­ter­ing, these love­ly arti­facts are a tes­ta­ment that says they real­ly are listening.

Even on “one of those days” it is pos­si­ble to climb out from the bot­tom of the heap. Instead of dwelling on the big things that bring us down, we just need to allow the lit­tle things to lift us up.

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Diane Henning
Diane Henning
5 years ago

Mau­r­na, thank you for shar­ing your insights and help­ing your read­ers to focus on the lit­tle things that chil­dren can help us to see!!

David LaRochelle
5 years ago

Anoth­er won­der­ful post, Mau­r­na. You are so right in that teach­ing the traits of kind­ness and com­pas­sion and love of learn­ing will go far­ther than a good test score. No won­der chil­dren would want you for a teacher every year! I, too, have my col­lec­tion of notes from stu­dents that I keep on my refrig­er­a­tor to remind me that I’ve made a dif­fer­ence — some from just a few years ago from author vis­its, and some from thir­ty years ago when I had my own classroom.