- Serendipity is the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
- Four personal stories point out the importance of making students feel liked, happy, empowered, and important.
- The small acts of love in our day have the power to make a permanent impression.
The word serendipity is just plain fun to say. The meaning of the word is just as lovely. Serendipity is the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
Over the past couple of months, the stars have aligned in my teacher world in the most beautiful, serendipitous way, and I believe they’ve happened so I can share them with you.
Before we begin, I have to say that I have written and deleted this piece multiple times. I worry that these stories may be perceived as an opportunity to high-five myself for the relationships I’ve nurtured with students over the years. Please know that is not my intention. Rather, I share these stories in an effort to prioritize the (finite amount) of energy we have during the school day.
Inspire Serendipity: Story #1
Our first story is about a quick moment in the car with my daughter and her friend. As they sat in the back seat, her friend started talking about a former teacher and said, “I didn’t like her, and she didn’t like me right back.”
This really got me. “I didn’t like her, and she didn’t like me right back.”
His teacher didn’t like him, and he knew it. He felt it. If this is the case and students know when we don’t like them, can the opposite be true as well? I couldn’t stop thinking about this.
Inspire Serendipity: Story #2
As I continued to think about this, the next story happened just a few days later. A colleague texted me saying, “Suzanne! You’ll never believe this! A former student of yours was my Uber driver last night!” After understanding how my colleague and 23-year-old student pieced everything together to make the connection, my colleague shared that he fondly remembers fourth grade being a year he had a happy teacher who made their temporary portable classroom feel like a different world. He said it was one of his happiest years in school.
He knew it. And he felt it.
Inspire Serendipity: Story #3
Onto story number three. This occurred just a few weeks ago when I received an email from a student I had in my first 3 years teaching (am I the only one who cringes thinking of those first years? Sorry, students!) He is now in his mid-twenties and wrote, “I don’t really remember what we learned, but I do remember how you made me feel – empowered, intelligent, and witty. This was all at a time when, in retrospect, I was struggling to figure out who I really was and having a teacher who was supportive made a world of difference.”
He knew it. And he felt it.
Inspire Serendipity: Story #4
Our final story brings us to a middle school classroom. I am an elementary teacher through and through, and I feel most at home in an elementary classroom. When a secondary colleague asked me to be a guest teacher in her middle school English class, I felt uncertain and insecure. Although I was nervous and out of my comfort zone, once I was there I committed to connect with this unfamiliar group of kids during the writing lesson. Thankfully, we were able to capture some of that magical energy I had only previously found in elementary classrooms. I was so relieved!
After the lesson, students were asked to give feedback to their English teacher. They said things like, “I like that she gave us choice.” “She was enthusiastic. I got excited about writing.” And “I didn’t get bored at all. She asked for our opinion and that made us feel important.”
I worried about my perfect plans and crisp slides. This wasn’t at all what these middle schoolers needed. Their feedback proved that a teacher’s energy is most impactful when it supports the way students feel during any given lesson.[scroll down to keep reading]
Small Acts Make a Difference
I am certain we all have similar stories, and my hope is they quiet a bit of the noise in your head or heart. The serendipitous timing of these stories reminds us that it isn’t the grand room transformations or the over-the-top spirit days or the Pinterest perfect walls that students remember years after they leave our schools. Rather, it’s the little acts of love tucked in the most mundane moments of our day that have the power to make a permanent impression.
As we purposefully tend to the world as educators, it’s the way in which we approach our days alongside our students that makes all the difference. Respect them, and they will respect you back. Love them, and they will love you back.
20, 30, or 50 years from now, a student will think of you and say your name.
Will they know they were important? Will they feel valued?
Let’s lean into our important work and prioritize the little things that ultimately become the big things. If we do, we may just be able to help inspire serendipity.
Small Shifts, Big Gifts!
Choose a student (or colleague!) who may need a little extra attention in order to feel they have a connection to school. Choose one conscious act of kindness for them! Once you perform this conscious act of kindness, your happiness will increase exponentially!
ABOUT SUZANNE DAILEY
Suzanne Dailey is a proud member of the Teach Better Family! She is an instructional coach in the Central Bucks School District where she has the honor and joy of working with elementary teachers and students in 15 buildings. Suzanne is Nationally Board Certified, a Fellow of the National Writing Project, and has a master’s degree in Reading. She is dedicated to nurturing and developing the whole child and teacher. Suzanne lives in Doylestown, Pennsylvania with her husband and two children.