The tiniest act makes a difference

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Butterfly Effect is an expression used to describe how small actions can affect large, seemingly unrelated systems through a complex series of events, each one larger but dependent on the smaller event that preceded it.

The term comes from the suggestion that the tiniest movement of air generated by the flapping of a butterfly’s wings on one continent could, through a series of increasing events, affect the weather on another continent.

In education, good teachers spend every day hoping that the events that transpire in those 60-minute class periods will somehow change someone for a lifetime.  They realize that a single, simple act of kindness or encouragement when a student is at some seemingly insignificant fork in the road may forever change that student’s path in life.  It may be the high-five in the hallway, allowing a few extra minutes on a test, or a simple smile that influences a student’s attitude or choices in life.

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Teachers may never know how one of their simple actions, through some long and unpredictable chain of events, will influence the kind of husband, grandmother, inventor, politician, or citizen their student will become.  But the best teachers always realize what an awesome and humbling opportunity they have to influence others with their actions, knowing that the tiniest impact may set into motion a chain of events that changes someone’s life forever.

Great advice can be found in the words of William James: “Act as if what you do makes a difference.  It does.”

About Kenneth Varner

Dr. Varner currently serves as Superintendent of Brewton City Schools.

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