Growing up this phrase, “One by one it all gets done” was my grandma’s (we call her Nanny) mantra. If she was standing in front of a big pile of holiday dishes in the sink, she would slip into her scrubbing gloves, toss me a drying towel and say “One by one it all gets done” before we charged into our task. When I would come home from high school overwhelmed with school work and sit down at the kitchen table surrounded by my books and assignments, Nanny would come in, make me a little snack, and kissing me on my head say “one by one it all gets done” before encouraging me to get started on my work mountain.
It is funny how every day it was said, it felt like fresh new advice. It created an “Aha!” moment in the midst of cloudy, dark thoughts. It simply never got old and always felt supportive, encouraging, and empathetic. Now as a high school teacher, I see my students struggle to organize themselves around multi-step projects. Their initial response to a big assignment is always, “I can’t do this” or “This is impossible.” I can’t help but smile a little before saying, “One by one it all gets done.” If anything I hope it gives them even a moment of perspective that I believe in their capacity as young learners and that despite the initial inertia that paralyzes them, they can grapple with this assignment. You could imagine my joy when I overheard one student recite my family mantra to her peer as they delved into their final for my course in which they had to write their own history textbooks using multiple perspectives for each major event. It felt amazing to see this little saying have an impact not only on me and my family but on them in that moment. I hope it continues to spread!