It’s the Small Things

Have you ever thought about how your personal evolution and the path to transformation exists in the small things? Where are you now and where do you want to be? Happiness doesn’t just exist in where we are, it lives in what we do to get there. Recently, I have been reflecting on how the latter part of 2021, looks and feels very different for me than the beginning. This time last year, you’d find me back in a classroom teaching reading to 6-8 grade students in the midst of a pandemic. A year later, I am a grateful assistant principal who is working with a new team, students, and community in the midst of a pandemic. Although my role has changed, I am the same person at the core. I have the same heart and passion for what I do. I recognize that it’s the small things that have contributed to endless refinement and continuous improvement towards the educator I am becoming. It’s the small things that have illuminated my love for education and the constant pursuit to be better for the people I serve.

Small Wins

You see, it’s the small wins that add up to the big things. When you love what you do, you have the motivation to remain courageous in your convictions. Even the setbacks you experience have the potential to become aha moments that fuel new ideas and catapult your drive for the person you wish to become. It’s the small things that pave the way to the big things. It could be the people you meet along the way; they may have taken the time to listen to your dreams, your ideas, and validate what you believe in and what you stand for. Those are the same people who probably told you “You can”. Those small things may have been a smile, a nod, a note, a glimmer of encouragement, a push into pursuing opportunities you didn’t know were waiting for you. Those small things may have helped you say yes to yourself and encouraged you to shatter the walls of fear as you were fervently finding your way. Maybe that small thing was someone who used the words “No, you can’t”. Thank that person for that, this was your opportunity to embrace every ounce of self-doubt to ignite determination and hope on the road to achieving personal growth.

It’s the Small Things

Small moves breathe new meaning into a year. In the book Atomic Habits, James Clear says, “We often dismiss small changes because they don’t seem to matter much in the moment.” Looking back in time, there were a lot of small things I didn’t savor in the moment. It’s the small things that led me to the place I am in today; they are rooted in a collection of interactions I’ve had with people, family, friends, students, and colleagues. The gradual evolution of becoming yourself is wrapped up in small things that happen over time. My friend Sean Gaillard recently shared a small thing, a simple sentiment in a tweet, “consider the possibilities”. Take a moment to look beyond your immediate surroundings… look for the small things in new people and possibilities on the horizon. Where are you now and where do you want to be in a year?

Impact Moves With You

Collecting Experiences 

We live a collection of memories and experiences that have been accumulated over the course of time. Within every role we serve, we are afforded opportunities that invite us to think about the educators we were and who we want to be. Over time, we establish and develop relationships, garner a multitude of teaching and learning practices, take part in numerous conversations, and make an impact on countless families, colleagues, and students who were destined to know us. As we proceed with our lives, we encounter new opportunities and people who are waiting to meet us. It can be exciting to think about a team of people we have not yet met, but will eventually become a constant in our lives. Or perhaps there will be people who enter your life for a short time; they serve as signposts who guide and create pathways that can lead to opportunities you have yet to know to exist. Every experience you will ever endure leads to the type of educator you wish to become. 

My Last Year in the Classroom

I have been thinking quite often about last year, the year that would become my last in the classroom. I certainly didn’t realize I’d be back in the classroom during a pandemic and one of the most challenging years in educational history. After all, for 5 years before that, I was serving as an instructional coach, a position I loved and adored. With change resting on my shoulders and 14 years at the elementary level, I requested to make a move to the middle school where I would be teaching literacy to learners in grades 6-8. Taking on new challenges has always been a part of my growth and development as a human being, educator, learner, leader, and practitioner. It is one of the myriads of ways I stay on the cutting edge of best practice, grow my skill set, and elevate others. I thought about how exciting it would be to take all of the learning I had ever been gifted and share it in new spaces. Little did I know, I would be sharing and growing my learning in physical and virtual spaces simultaneously and it would be my last opportunity to make an impact in that very space.

Cultures of Learning Are Built on Connection

In what seemed like an instant, I learned that all of my knowledge about literacy, had no bearing or influence on my students unless I could create authentic ways to cultivate connection. They were not interested in my content expertise; they were interested in the person I was, the person I am, and the person I was still striving to be. They were interested in me getting to know who they were, who they are, and who they wanted to be. If you want to develop a culture of learning, communication, collaboration, and empowerment, you must show your students who you are and make an effort to invest in their hearts. 

Small Moves Can Make Big Impact

I keep thinking about what my friend Meghan Lawson says, “Small moves can make a big impact.” On one of my last days in the classroom, I read my students Only One You by Linda Kranz. The book inspired me to use all I had learned about my students and write them a personal note of inspiration and gratitude. With that, I also left them a special rock with the one word I felt embodied who they are and who they will continue to be. I remember my student Steven picking up his rock “Happiness” and studying it carefully. “Mrs. Kaufman, do you really think I can bring happiness to people wherever I go?” I replied, “Steven, your happiness is contagious and will bring joy to whomever you meet. Your happiness will change the world.”

Impact Moves with You

And just like that, it’s less than a year later…I am now serving as an assistant principal with a new team of people I was destined to know. The last interaction I had with Steven was just one moment in the collection of small moves I employed that would later influence the school leader I am learning to become. I often reflect on the small moves I am choosing to make to connect with people. One of the best parts of my new role is visiting classrooms to spend time with students and teachers. Recently, a student named James delightfully approached me with a piece of writing he wanted to share. One sentiment he included was, “When you walk by, say hi to Mrs. Kaufman. Don’t you want to make her day? Mrs. Kaufman is wonderful because she makes sure everyone has a good day.” As I read James’ piece of writing, it brought me back to the exchange I had with Steven. It made me think about how Steven’s contagious happiness became a part of me. It seemed as though I was inadvertently bringing that same happiness to James. Perhaps I have been carrying many years of my students’ and colleagues’ positive attributes with me. At that moment, I asked myself…”How can we continuously recognize that a collection of small actions have the potential to make someone else’s day better?”

Who is the Educator You Wish to Become?

When you make an effort to continually build connections with people, it becomes an intrinsic act of gratitude. In the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, he says, “Your life bends in the direction of your habits. Every action you take is a vote for the person you want to become.” When I reflect on my past and present experiences, I often ask myself, “Who is the leader you wish to become Lauren?” My answer is “I wish to become the leader I always needed.” No matter where your journey takes you, your actions create a collection of experiences that can positively impact others. Your impact moves with you.