I am a sucker for New Year's resolutions. One of the things I love most about being a teacher is that we have two different opportunities for them: in August when the new school year starts, and in January when we come back from break and everyone else is starting new, too.
Listen, I know the success rate for New Year's resolutions is abysmal. Most people bail on them within the first few days or weeks, if they even set them at all. I am not one of those people. I thrive with resolutions.
It might be one of the areas in which my stubbornness pays off most. I don't have a perfect success rate, but I do use them as guidance for goal setting, and as a goal-oriented person, I put a lot of effort into achieving resolutions at some level. The types of resolutions I make help with my success. I'm not too strict or extreme, and I choose to be realistic about what's possible.
I usually don't tell people what my resolutions are because I find a certain joy in achieving them on my own. That's probably because I'm harder on myself than I allow anyone else to be. I stick to my goals because I don't want to face myself if I have to admit failure. Stubbornness fuels my persistence.
I'll make an exception to my usual secrecy and share my work related resolutions for the rest of the school year here:
1. Take five breaths
This resolution aligns with both my classroom and my yoga practice. One thing I constantly have to hold myself to in my at-home yoga practice is to hold poses for five full breaths. It'll coincide nicely with my classroom. Instead of feeling the need to react quickly, I'll try to remember to take a few breaths before using my words. I did it today by not responding to an email immediately, and by the time I'd thought it through and taken a few breaths, my response completely changed from what it would have been. The world won't end if I take time instead of always responding as quickly as possible.
2. Structured down time
Is that an oxymoron? Here's the thing: I'm ridiculously productive when I'm on a time crunch or a schedule. My principal regularly comments that there is not single moment of wasted time in my classroom, which is why I don't have many management issues. But for as productive as I am in those spaces, I'm the opposite during my planning period, and the 70 (cumulative) minutes before and after school. I'm easily distracted. I get sucked in to unproductive conversations. I stare off into space. This needs to stop. The way I'm going to attempt to combat the issue is by "scheduling" this down time. I work well with lists and time schedules, so this unstructured time needs more structure. A time range for checking and responding to emails, a designated time to read new articles or books on ELA; having a schedule in place will nudge me toward better productivity. This will be the hardest goal, but it could reap the most benefits.
3. Throw things out
This is another resolution that easily coincides with my personal life. I'm not a hoarder, but I am a collector. Comic books, books, poems, articles, short stories, random junk, beauty supplies, running gear, clothes, shoes: if it involves words, can be used as an acting prop, deals with running, or appeals to vanity I will collect as much as possible and keep it. This is a problem in itself, but it's compounded by the fact that I have horrendous organizational skills. This means I have so much junk crammed into random cupboards, drawers, and digital storage apps (Drive, Pinterest, Pocket, DropBox, Google Keep, Evernote...) that I forget about it or can't find it. I'm starting to manage the physical stuff by not accepting new junk and giving away the old, but I need to throw out, delete, or organize the digital items. If certain lessons or units are not as effective as newer options, I need to throw them out. I love to add all the time, but I need to get better at deleting, too. It's okay to not do everything all the time. This is not necessarily a new resolution: this is ongoing. It's something I hope I never stop doing as a teacher. Learn more, do better, replace, repeat.
That's enough for this stretch of January-May. If I have some success with the first two, I'll turn them into habit so they'll become part of my routine. The last one is something I will never be done with. I don't want to be the teacher who stops throwing things out because then I'll be the teacher who never does anything new.
I teach 7th and 8th grade English in rural Iowa and hope to reflect, connect, and share with other English teachers. Iowa Council of Teachers of English Executive Board member. Iowa Writing Project superfan. UNI MA:TESS graduate.