New Year’s Resolutions. As if teachers aren’t already expected to meet countless objectives, teach to tests, raise standardized test scores, face peer review panels, incorporate a higher percentage of technology-based lessons, etc., etc. Today, more than ever before, being a teacher means being scrutinized and judged on all sorts of levels. Do teachers really need another set of expectations to live up to?
Besides, the rote resolutions are all too familiar: Focus more effort on your work/life balance, get students more involved, become better organized and so on. Grand resolutions can easily become a set of onerous and unrealistic goals that teachers know are unattainable from the very start. So said Time Magazine in a 2013 article, “Anatomy of a New Year’s Resolution.” In fact, studies published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology show that only eight percent of people actually ever achieve such lofty goals.
So, let’s look at this another way.
At the beginning of the school year every teacher enters the classroom vowing to spend more time doing this, more effort focusing on that, or to bring a new energy and positive outlook to the classroom. Looking back at those original plans at the end of the calendar year, it’s easy to see how some of them have fallen to the wayside. That doesn’t mean they were “bad” plans or that they were necessarily unattainable. Too often, though, it’s easy to see such setbacks as personal shortcomings.
As teachers know, inculcating new behaviors always involves failing at it numerous times. That’s part of the habituation cycle. Any well-intentioned new behaviors are very difficult to ingrain. We may drop the effort or find we don’t do as much as we had hoped. Heading back into class after the beginning of the new year is a great time for teachers to start the positive efforts anew on existing goals as well as set a couple of (not six, not 12) new ones.
The New Year is also a perfect time for teachers to review those original goals set last August overall. Do they still apply? Based on what you’ve learned in the past few months, do they need to be altered or even replaced? What new behaviors do you want to keep but get better at?
If you decide to make a couple of new resolutions, here are a couple of hints that will make it more likely you will succeed at them:
- Be specific. Don’t set vague, unmeasurable goals or you will never feel like you’ve achieved anything.
- Don’t make it an all-or-nothing goal. Select a goal that has achievable progress points and shoot for those.
- Expect a bumpy road. The idea is to strive for genuine progress on some realistic goals rather than to achieve perfection of some lofty, impossible goals. Again, progress, not perfection.
- Involve others. You don’t have to lay out all your goals to everyone, but maybe share one particular item you want to achieve with another teacher (they can tell you one of theirs) and help each other to stick to it.
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