In my last post, I wrote briefly about how there is beauty in the ordinary things around us.  Today I want to take it a step further and see what list I can come up with in terms of the ordinary things around us (in the classroom and beyond) that can prove to be inspiring.  I invite you to add to this list in the comments!

Be inspiring by being kind.

When we witness random acts of kindness, that can inspire kindness in ourselves.  Can you think of that commercial (I think it’s for a bank) where one person does something nice, another person sees it and creates a chain reaction of kind acts?  That’s kind of what I mean.  We can be that first “something nice.”  What’s more, we can have a conversation with out students about what it means to “pay it forward.”  When we do something kind for another, you never know what affect it may have on yet another person who witnesses the act.

Set boundaries and stick to them.

This is pretty ordinary – or is it?  Kids love boundaries.  They need rules.  At the end of the year, they also need a reminder.  That’s what my fourth grade colleagues and I did this past Friday.  We sat our 100+ students down and discussed the importance of following the rules of the school, listening to teachers, and finishing off the school year with a good attitude.

The students saw that we meant business and left the meeting very thoughtful.  Now, the tests come.  Some students have already started to waver or have just made simple mistakes, but we are sticking to our plan to make sure our students finish their year strong.

Walking from the cafe to our classrooms after lunch, it is imperative that we remain silent in our open concept school.  To show we are sticking to our plan, we have taken students out of the line when they are talking to make sure they understand the importance of and reasoning behind the school rule.  This is not to be mean or to be controlling, but to show the students that certain rules, even the bland ordinary ones, are there for a reason and we all need to oblige.

As for the follow through, it’s so easy NOT to follow through: to turn away or ignore a minor infraction, to brush it off as no big deal.  But that can lead to bigger problems down the line.  So, we have made the promise to one another (we teachers, that is) to be diligent in following through on misbehavior.


It always amazes me how a simple smile can brighten a day.  I’ve even heard that if you are in a bad mood and make yourself smile, your mood will change for the better.  One Sunday Morning on the CBS TV show, there was a segment on Yoko Ono’s project Smilesfilm where out of her own loss of her husband, John Lennon, she realized the power of a smile.  (Read her story here.)

Similarly we can spread happiness or simply make ourselves feel better by smiling or sharing a smile with our students and colleagues (not to mention family and friends.)  So, smile at someone today!

Greet Your Students (and Colleagues)

Making a point of greeting your students as they walk into the room can seem like a very ordinary thing.  Yet, many teachers don’t do it.  Myself included, we get bogged down by last minute preparation or email checking and the assumption that the students know just what to do when they enter the room.  But wouldn’t it be nice if we all made a point to greet each one of our students every day (with a smile)?  Calling them by name and making them feel welcomed and noticed.

Chat with a Student

Students love to know their teachers are listening to them.  While some students may shy away from a one-on-one talk, others may thrive on it.  Don’t underestimate the power you have to make a difference in a child’s life by having a short conversation with a student.  It may be just what they need.  And having a conversation with them for no apparent reason (not because they are in trouble or did something amazing) is even more special.

Compliment their outfit and ask them about it.  Ask them what their plans are for the week end and then listen to their answer.  Tell them a story about when you played baseball as a kid.  These are the little ordinary things that can make a difference.

What makes these things ordinary?

These are a few examples of things we take for granted, yet come across every day: a chance to chat, smile, do something kind and yet, they may go unrecognized or, worse seen as not as important anymore.  But these small, ordinary things are far very important because they help us to build relationships.

What makes these things inspiring?

Plain and simple, they show you care.  When you take the time to do something from this list, you are showing students that you want to take the time to be a positive person in their life.  When that happens, trust is formed and the students will in turn learn so much from you!

So, now it’s your turn!  What other ordinary, yet inspiring things can you add to the list?


Photo credit

What it Means to Be an Inspiring Teacher
Trapper Keepers of the Future