I recently ran into a middle school student who attended the elementary school where I was an interim principal. The first thing she said to me was, “Ms. Lawson! I won the spelling bee last year!”
And like a flash, a memory came back to me. I remembered that two years ago, she had been runner up in our school spelling bee. I remembered her mother and father consoling her as she sobbed into their winter jackets…so upset with herself for misspelling that final word. I remembered telling her how proud I was of her and her efforts. I remembered we spent some time together as she worked to gather her composure before heading to class. I remembered that it was hard to see her so upset and yet, I could feel that this was going to be a moment she would never forget. A small little setback story in a life filled with so many wins and triumphs.
So, when I walked into that classroom, after not seeing her in over a year and a half, and when her eyes got big and she exclaimed my name and told me about that win. I got it. It was big deal. It was a peak moment she wanted to share with a person who had been there for the hard stuff.
It’s easy to forget that things feel like really big deal when we are little. Do you remember how long the space between Halloween and the holidays used to feel? It felt so much longer than it does now as an adult. Do you remember how big your school and your childhood home felt? Do you remember how small you felt when you got in trouble with big people who were so much taller and older and more powerful that you? Do you remember how exciting it was to have a class party, field day, spirit week? Do you remember that person who deeply hurt your feelings with a seemingly small remark? Or that teacher who made you feel really important with the time they took to talk to you and give you specific, positive feedback?
For all of us, the little things are the big things. But whew, it all feels even bigger and more significant when you’re a kid. A little kid, a middle school kid, a high school kid – it all feels bigger for kids of all ages.
So, here is the thing. My goodness are we tired. And many of us still have a couple of days of school next week. My greatest wish for you is that rest on the horizon because you deserve it in a big way.
My greatest wish for our students is that despite our exhaustion next week, we make them feel special. We show them how much they matter. In our school. In this world. In the eyes of teachers.
There are students who may not be very excited about extended time at home. There may be adults who aren’t very excited about extended time at home either. It doesn’t mean we can’t be excited, but let’s handle hearts with caring words.
Perhaps we could tell them, “I’m going to miss you! Can’t wait to see you when you get back!”
There is a lot about the world that is really hard right now. Small words can restore hope. Small words and small gestures are big. They are especially big for our students.
In this season of giving, give your full attention. Show up with your whole heart. Find the good and celebrate the heck out of it.
Be a hope giver. Handle with care.
Perhaps we could all choose one student or staff member who behaves in ways that seem to push others away. And then look really closely at that person, ask good questions, listen, and celebrate back to them all the good we see about them. It might be exactly what we they need to get through this short break and come back better than before.
If we all did our little part, I bet our schools would change.