In a week, we’ll see tons of prominent store displays and ads stacked with weight loss shakes, protein bars and supplement pills. That’s because, year after year, losing weight and getting in shape are among the top New Year’s resolutions. Inevitably, around February, many give up on that goal, just in time for all the beer and hot wings that come with Super Bowl parties.
Though I’m not a fan of New Year’s resolutions (given their failure rate), I do believe that we teachers are positioned to make and keep them. Why? Because that holiday break removes us from our normal day-to-day routine and affords us time to reflect on our practice. Naturally, as we spend the holidays out of the classroom, we think about how the first semester went and come up with ways to improve for the next.
Personally, I plan to develop more student-centered projects that bring their learning to life. As a Spanish teacher, I have the opportunity to make lessons more meaningful beyond worksheets and tests. I realize I can do more with that and will strive to do so next year. Perhaps you want to seek more professional development opportunities or become more involved in school programs. Maybe you want to make a better effort calling parents or returning assignments back quicker (the struggle is real).
In my years in education, I’ve seen a number of complacent teachers who are content with using the same lesson plans, assessments and materials each year. The truth is that even teachers who’ve been in the profession for over 25 years can improve in one way or another.
On the other side, the first year teacher may utterly feel overwhelmed and needing to get better at various things. That’s why every teacher can and should strive to improve in at least one way. That’s a reasonable New Year’s resolution, one that often happens naturally, but it still must be stated.
Due to the cyclical nature of education, especially if you teach the same subject and level each year, it’s easy to fall into a groove and always do the exact same thing, as if you’re an actor on a Broadway show. But I urge educators to find at least one way they can improve this year and create a plan to stick to it.
Thoughtful school administrators can also help teachers become more introspective. By introducing key school-wide initiatives, they push faculty to try new things. For instance, in a school I taught at in Los Angeles, the principal asked all teachers, even the Art, Math and P.E. teachers, to create one writing assignment within a two month period. The ultimate goal was to get students to write more and to improve the clarity of their arguments. After the window of time, all the teachers met and reflected on the process.
As a result, some, like our algebra teacher, began assigning more writing, thus, giving students more practice. Mission accomplished. Likewise, a savvy administrator can get the school to address a common issue with such an initiative.
For-profit companies set goals to make more money. Teachers set goals to get more students prepared for college and career. The better the teacher, the more prepared students will be. It all begins with saying “this year I will be a better teacher for my students by ______________.”