Like the rest of America, I thought this would be an opportune time to generate my New Year’s Resolutions. Unlike the rest of America, I will not be including cleaning out my basement or organizing my garage. (Seriously, is there anyone out there who has ever followed through on those resolutions?) Instead, I thought I’d take a stab at formulating some resolutions with my teacher’s hat on. If there is any profession that requires constant reevaluation and reflection, it is education. What are some areas that we teachers should be thinking about as we head into 2014? Here are my 2014 New Year’s Teacher Resolutions:
- I will work to improve communication with parents. When parents and teachers join together in the education of a child, the child’s chance of success is significantly higher. Teachers and parents each play a critical role in the child’s development; by maintaining open channels of communication they can reinforce each other and support each other. In particular, we teachers should make a greater effort to inform parents of their children’s accomplishments – not just their failures.
- I will work to improve communication with colleagues. As teachers, we all face similar challenges. Why deal with them alone? We have so much to learn and gain from each other’s knowledge and experience. The more we consult with fellow teachers, the more we –and ultimately our students – grow. If our students’ success is our primary objective, then we ought to be sharing all we can with each other regarding curricular questions, pedagogical strategies, and even behavioral challenges.
- I will work to incorporate more differentiated work. We all know how important differentiation is in a classroom setting. But how many of us practice it consistently? Let’s start small, and aim to create at least one lesson plan per week that contains differentiated goals, activities, and assessments, based on individual students and their respective needs.
- I will work to engender more collaborative work. The benefits of group problem-solving and group activity are well-documented. Let us aim to design curriculum that calls for more challenging and more frequent group work. A truly significant amount of time in the classroom should be dedicated to genuine student collaboration; the less time we’re up there simply downloading information from our minds to our students’ notebooks, the better.
- I will work to grow professionally. Being a teacher is one of the busiest jobs in the world. A full day of teaching is often followed by a full night of preparing for the next day’s lessons, checking one’s email, and grading papers. There really isn’t a lot of time for much else. However, if we want to avoid professional plateauing, if we want to continue evolving as educators, it is crucial that we set aside time for teacher professional development. A practical suggestion: let’s try to read at least one article a week about the field of education. Engaging with new ideas and current events reinvigorates us and keeps us better informed, as we head back to the trenches of the classroom.
- I will work to take better care of myself. As noted above, teaching leaves very little time on the schedule for anything else. Besides squeezing in time for professional development, of even greater importance is setting aside time for self-care. Teaching is notorious for its high level of burnout. Teachers expend so much energy giving to others. If we want to stay physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy, we simply must designate daily time that is completely focused on ourselves. Whether it is physical exercise, spending time with family, or just watching a movie, doing something for ourselves is critical for self-preservation.
- I will work to be more grateful. Teaching is tough. It’s possible to have a bad day (and even really bad days). We experience moments when we question why we ever got into this field to begin with. Frustrations and disappointments can feel overwhelming. But then there are the good days. The moments that remind us just why, despite it all, we did decide to embark upon this wild adventure called teaching. And we dare not lose sight of that. Let’s be grateful that we have the privilege to get up every morning and help young men and young women discover themselves, as they discover the world. Let’s be grateful that we can spend our day nurturing our students and encouraging them to fulfill their potential. Let’s be grateful that we are teachers.
What are you thinking about this New Year’s Day? What teacher resolutions would you suggest? I’d love to hear your own reflections below. Happy New Year’s Day!