I never read that book, Don’t Sweat the Small Things, but I understand it’s intentions. Don’t get overwhelmed by the little things that you miss out on the big things – you know like worrying about the crumbs on the table left by your kid that you miss out on their childhood. But I’m thinking about the small things that often are ignored because they are small, except they add up to the big things. I’ve been a huge fan of Brene Brown for awhile and her analogy of the marble jar is what I’m talking about here.
So I’ve been trying to pull apart those small things that we so often ignore inside of schools but can literally shift someone’s day/week/career. These examples aren’t a way of me patting myself on the back for a job well done, but a way to really create a picture of how those small things begin to be big things, how the small things begin to clear the way for folks to do big work instead of worrying about those small things.
I’ve been working with a new teacher and he’s expressed multiple times that he just gets so anxious about calling students’ homes that he just hasn’t done it. He has had no modelling of this behavior from his mentor teacher in the past, his current mentor hasn’t helped him (no blame occurring here at all!) but he’s expressed this in exasperation multiple times. Last week he expressed this again and I looked at him and said ok, let’s call some parents next time we meet. He looked at me and said really? Ok. I sent him an email clearly defining what was needed – the students’ names and their phone numbers, but if he couldn’t do the phone number piece before we met, we could do that during the time as well. So I met with him to do this task. He was like oh I didn’t get the numbers yet. I waited while he did this. Then he pulled out his cell phone and I was like oh no, we are going to use the classroom phone. He told me it didn’t work – which I was skeptical of. So I picked it up, it had a dial tone and he said it didn’t ring, I checked the little button on the phone and turned the ringer on. So I went next door and called it and it rang. I called my phone number on it and my phone rang. He was thrilled. I wrote out a simple script to help him frame his phone calls. Then he started calling. First phone number went to voicemail. He called back and left a message. He called another, same thing. I left to go to the bathroom and when I returned his affect was dramatically different.
I’ve been working with an experienced teacher who has some significant fear around technology due to inexperience. I was told that if I could get him to bring his chromebook to PLCs I’d be a hero. The first meeting I was at he didn’t bring it, so I went and grabbed mine and gave it to him. I sat next to him and helped him log on and find the agenda. A few weeks ago I showed him how to make a copy of a document so he could turn in his lesson plans in the right place. This past week I showed him how to take photos and upload them into his google drive using his phone. Then showed him how to upload those documents and images into his evidence needed for his evaluation.
I have a colleague who is a good friend. He was incredibly frustrated the other day. He was expressing frustration around administration and consistency. I listened but then I pushed back and asked him what he would like the response to him kicking a student out to be? He said he wasn’t sure. As he talked about the experience that led to him kicking a student out, I heard his sadness and frustration with his own teaching practice instead of the frustration that initially was towards administration. I expressed that I heard these things and he sighed and said yes.
It’s not always about having the answers or solutions, but sometimes it’s about sitting next to someone and really listening. I knew I couldn’t have done any of these things in the first weeks of working with these educators. I had to put the marbles into the jar in order to get to this point, but these small things are also adding more marbles in. Someone said somewhere in the past few months (I wish I could remember)
“Listen to the request in the complaint.”