In my second grade class, we had a pencil sharpener attached to the wall. You know, the traditional crank kind of sharpener. The one that seems to command attention when it is used. I didn’t think anything of it since I had an electric pencil sharpener and sharpened pencils daily for the next day’s work.
Then someone stuck a crayon into my “fancy” sharpener. A piece lodged in it and I couldn’t get it to work again.
So we used the crank pencil sharpener on the wall. I usually tried to keep a stock of sharpened pencils so kids wouldn’t need to use it. It was just a distraction, it seemed. But occasionally they did. All was fine until that one fateful day.
I came into the room one day and found the small extension on the crank handle was off. I don’t know how it came off. I could not figure out how to get it back on. “Oh, well,” I thought. “We’ll just do without it.” I placed it in my desk, thinking I would ask for maintenance.
I never did get it fixed. And that pencil sharpener taught me something important. Without that little extension, it is almost impossible to turn the crank. I would wind it jerkily (and had to do so with great force). Our pencils would get sharpened but I had to do it. The kids couldn’t work it. Their hands weren’t strong enough.
And sometimes the pencils would get too sharp and break easily. Or they would sharpen unevenly, with a stripe of wood down one side of the lead.
Why am I going on about a pencil sharpener that I haven’t seen in 2 years? Well, that sharpener taught me (or reminded me) of an important lesson. The small things matter. A lot.
Without that piece, the pencil sharpener was less efficient and less useful. I had lots of headaches because of that little piece.
Other “little” things mean a lot. A smile. A simple pat on the back. A handwritten note. A listening ear.
Remembering a story or a birthday. Reading a book about Spiderman or watching a Lego Ninjago video.
Being there every day.
Little things do matter. In fact, they are not little at all. They are the things that build a relationship and make a connection. They are the things that keep the classroom turning.
Don’t neglect them. Don’t lose them.
What happens if these “little things” go missing? The classroom doesn’t work as well. Things are more difficult. Something just seems amiss.
Do the little things.
Listen to your kids. (Really listen, with your full attention.)
Smile more. Laugh a lot.
Tell a joke. Listen to the kindergartner’s joke (that seems to make no sense).
Chase an idea that comes from nowhere and seems to lead back to nowhere. (Sometimes those trails lead to great teachable moments.)
Take a dance break (even if you dance badly like me).
Do something just because – no particular objective other than to explore an idea.
Follow the child’s lead. Have fun.
These little things are what you look back on and realize how big they really were.