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This is not the typical season when many or most of us set aside time to watch the classic movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. Yet, its message is important for our reflection as the school year approaches its end. George Bailey, the film’s protagonist, spent his life in Bedford Falls running a small family bank and serving his community. Sadly, he failed to see the important difference he was making in the lives of those around him. Then, though, he was visited by an aspiring angel who helped him to see how the small, everyday things he did changed lives, created opportunities, and opened doors for those he touched.

People on whom others looked down benefited from George’s confidence, compassion, and encouragement. People with dreams were able to pursue them with the support George provided. The lives of the people of Bedford Falls were improved because of George’s everyday actions. Fortunately, the community was able to tell George this and show their appreciation at the conclusion of the movie. Still, the difference he made was profound and lasting—regardless of whether he was aware of it.

It is not a stretch to make comparisons between George Bailey and the work educators do with children and young people every day. It is true that much of the impact we have will not be visible to us. In some cases, the difference we make in the lives of our students may not even show up for years. In fact, the difference will not always even be obvious to the students whose lives we change. Regardless, it is important for us to pause and reflect on the profound and lasting impact we have.


  • When we plant a seed of possibility with a student and lift their dreams and aspirations, we may be putting them on a path to a life and achievements beyond what they could have imagined otherwise.
  • When we take the time to help a student build a key skill with which they have struggled, we may be giving them a tool that will become a lever for their future success.
  • When we notice a budding talent and encourage an emerging passion, we may be paving the way for a future artist, entrepreneur, social or public service worker, community leader, or diplomat.
  • When we nurture an insatiable curiosity, we might be opening the door to a future inventor, researcher, scientist, or designer.
  • When we take time to listen and understand, we may be preventing someone from harming themselves and instilling hope that carries them through a tough time.
  • When we commit to teach, rather than default to punish, when students behave inappropriately, we might be building skills that may prevent a future tragedy or make a neighborhood or community better.
  • When we choose to believe in the inherent goodness and potential of our students, we make it possible for them to believe in themselves and to persist and overcome what life places before them.

The fact is that we do George Bailey things every day that make a difference to those around us. We may not immediately see the difference. We may never even hear about many of the positive impacts we have had on the lives of our students. However, these facts in no way diminish the importance or lessen the value of the important work we do.

Thought for the Week

Simply pulling a strategy “off the shelf” or defaulting to the most recently read article or staff development session topic may not generate the results we seek.

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