Saturday, December 28, 2013

Fourteen Resolutions for the New Year

It’s a natural combination at this time of year—New Year’s resolutions and a reflective teaching practice. While Winter Break gives us a few days away from school, we have an opportunity to gain perspective. No matter how busy our holidays are, most of us can’t resist the impulse to think about school and our students and the work that we need to do as soon as our break ends.

Now is a good time to use that impulse to create resolutions that can bring your dreams for a well-run classroom filled with successful, high-achieving students closer to reality. In honor of 2014, here are fourteen productive resolutions that you may want to consider adopting as part of your own teaching practice in the year ahead. Pick and choose what will work for you. If you would like to share your own resolutions, feel free to make comments. Learning from our colleagues is a great way to begin a new year.

Resolution 1: Respect your students. I know this seems simple, but too often we overlook what our students are capable of achieving because we are focused on what they don’t know or can’t do. Instead of seeing them as competent learners, we see them in terms of what they lack instead of what they are.

Resolution 2: Manage your stress. The last day of school is a long way away. Start employing as many simple strategies as you can to keep your work life and your personal life in balance. Using brief, purposeful actions to ward off the ill effects of chronic stress every day will make a huge difference in your fatigue levels.

Resolution 3: Plan as far ahead as you possibly can. For example, if you know that you are going to be giving a test in two weeks, you have time to create and photocopy it well in advance of the long line of frustrated teachers waiting their time at the copier on the day you want to give it. Knowing what your students are going to be doing for the rest of the year is a positive step that will make it easier for you to use class time wisely.

Resolution 4: Shake it up. No one says that lessons have to be dull to be effective. Use as many different strategies as you can to reach your students. Let them be creative and messy and loud if they are still learning at the same time. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Resolution 5: Explore different ways to increase your own productivity. If, for example, you have a tall stack of papers to grade, instead of plowing through it with a red pen, investigate other ways to use those papers to help your students learn. Ask your colleagues. Use your imagination. Again, don’t be afraid to experiment.

 Resolution 6: Use the resources available to you. Create a PLN, open a Twitter account, explore Tumblr, check out the images on Pinterest, invite community members to speak to your students…the list is endless.

Resolution 7: See your students as partners in learning, not little vessels waiting to be filled with your expert knowledge. Involve them in planning, listen to their ideas, and ask important questions. Encourage your students to assume more responsibility for their own learning and then watch the positive results that can happen.

Resolution 8: Make every minute count. Use those tiny blocks of time that can go to waste in any classroom to keep students engaged and learning. Think door to door when it comes to instruction.

Resolution 9: Make a deliberate effort to try a new strategy or technique each week. Some will be fantastic, some will be okay, and some will stink, but you will expand your repertoire of teaching skills and that’s always a good thing.

 Resolution 10: Use your students’ strengths. When you expand on what your students already do well, you will find it easier to remediate their weaknesses. Don’t just focus on the strengths of individual students; capitalize on the strengths of the entire class, too.

Resolution 11: Keep moving forward. At this time of year, it’s easy to get mired in the muck of undone tasks and a seemingly endless curriculum. Take a deep breath. Plan ahead. Look ahead. Bit by bit you can build your students’ skills and knowledge.

Resolution 12: Solve problems. If you wanted to, you could spend your entire planning period complaining about your students and trying to fix blame for what goes wrong in your class. Instead of wasting that time, look at the setbacks in your school day as problems that you need to solve. With this attitude, you can move forward.

Resolution 13: Be the role model your students want you to be. For some of your students, you are the only one who will take the time to show them how to be successful, how to read, how to write, how to speak well, how to behave. Whether you want to be or not, you are a role model and far, far more important than you can imagine. Rise to that challenge.

Resolution 14: Take time to enjoy your students. Share a laugh. Appreciate the unique qualities that they bring to school each day. Rushing through each day robs you of the available joy sitting right there in front of you.