In our world right now, there’s a lot of attention being paid to protecting ourselves from illness, specifically COVID-19. Yesterday, I experienced something that reminded me that a virus isn’t the only thing that’s contagious.
I’ve previously written about the Power of the Little Things, how even the smallest of actions can reap huge dividends for those around us. How a high five, a simple compliment, or something as small as a smile can make someone’s day, week, or even month. Yesterday, I was reminded that exercising the Power of the Little Things can be contagious.
Every morning at school, one of my responsibilities and privileges is greeting students and their families as they arrive on campus. As students walk by and get out of their cars, I make it a point to look for small compliments to give. If I see a student walking up in what appears to be a new pair of shoes, I say something like, “Wow! Are those new shoes? Those look great!”
If a kindergartener or first grade girl has a bright bow in her hair, I’ll comment on it. “Pretty bow!”
If a boy has a stylish shirt or a girl is wearing a pretty dress, I’m sure to mention it to them. Every single day I compliment students in ways like these. Why? Because chances are, they’re dying for someone to notice their new shoes, hair bow, shirt, or dress. Think back to when you were young. Remember when you got that new pair of shoes and wore them to school for the first time? My guess is you hoped someone would mention them. I know I did. And this doesn’t just apply to the early grades of elementary school. Middle and high schoolers crave this attention too, probably even more so.
But yesterday I experienced something super cool. As one car drove up before school, I opened the car door and one of our young girls got out. She thanked me and then looked at me, as if searching for something. She looked at my hat, my shirt, and finally her eyes settled on my shoes.
“Mr. Coley, I really like your shoes!” she said with a big smile.
My shoes. My ordinary shoes. My old, worn, scuffed, and need-to-be-replaced-soon shoes (see below).
It was as if she was looking for something to compliment, couldn’t find anything extraordinary, so settled on my shoes. And you know what? I believe that’s exactly what happened.
See, this isn’t the first time this has occurred. This is actually the third time this year a student has complimented my shoes. None of those times were my shoes anything special, anything that would have stood out. In fact, all three times I was wearing older, worn shoes.
Then why did I receive compliments on them from students? Simple. Because I complimented them first. I’ve modeled the behavior, and I truly believe in this case, they’re now mimicking my actions.
The lesson to be learned here? A virus isn’t the only thing that can be spread. Our behavior is contagious. Kindness is contagious. I’ve made it a habit to look for the little things -- shoes, glasses, dresses -- and make a positive comment about them. And now I have students doing the same thing. Looking for something nice to say is on their radar. And if they’re complimenting my old shoes, how often are they doing the same kind of thing with their peers? I’m guessing more than they would have otherwise.
If you’re not already doing so, I encourage you to look for those small compliments to give to the students and staff around you. Because not only will it make a difference in the life of the person you encourage, but your action can create a ripple effect that can spread to others.
Remember, not everything that’s contagious is bad. We can all be super spreaders...of kindness!
Want to hear more? I devoted an entire chapter of my book Stories of EduInfluence to the topic of how small actions can make a big impact. Click/tap here to listen to the Audible version of “Chapter 8: The Power of the Little Things."
If you’d like to purchase a copy of the book in paperback, Kindle, or Audible versions, head over to Amazon.
Brent has worked in the field of education as a teacher and administrator for 25 years. He is currently Principal of Alta Murrieta Elementary School in Murrieta, California. Read more about Brent here.
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