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A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching

Reflecting on Resolutions to Sharpen Your Saw

As the semester comes to an end, grades are submitted and you tidy your room for a fresh start in the new year.  You have spent a semester helping your students pack their suitcase of knowledge and skills.  What have you done for your own learning?  Franklin Covey dedicates an entire chapter of his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People to the idea of “sharpening the saw” which is focused on self-renewal.  As you close down this calendar year, and take a short break from the classroom, think about what you can do for yourself to continue to enrich your skill set.  Maybe it is time for an education resolution?

The possibilities for an educational resolution are endless.  Read some new research.  Start a book study.  Find some new instructional materials.  Learn how to differentiate.  Take some classes.  Work on a new certification.  Get an advanced degree.
My current endeavors include an online degree program.  Having completed all of my previous education in a face-to-face setting, setting out to get a degree online was a new adventure.  I have to say I love it.
My stimulus to beginning new coursework was a job offering for which I needed additional certification.  The first benefit to the online coursework was the ongoing enrollment.  Once all of the application materials were submitted and I had been accepted, I was able to begin classes.  There was no waiting for the new term.
Once I received the syllabi for the courses, I went online, ordered all of my books, and in a weeks time was ready to begin.  Interestingly enough, my stack of materials matched that of a friend of mine who had enrolled in a traditional university program.
Being that I enjoy discussions, completing all of my coursework online has been an interesting adjustment.  Most of my work is done solo on my comfortable leather couch, or when I need to really focus, at the kitchen table.  This part of the coursework is not any different from completing readings and assignments for a traditional class.  When I feel the need for input and conversation, I have my colleagues or my professors easily accessible via email or chat.  After submitting assignments, my professor emails back comments and my grades are posted.  When taking assessments, the feedback is almost immediate.
One of the biggest benefits is that the coursework there when I have the time.  No need to reschedule essential after-school events.  When the week gets busy, my course work can wait.  When school settles down a bit, I can work on as much of my readings and assignments as possible.  To keep myself on track, I do schedule class time two evenings each week.  My friends know I am “in class” when I don’t answer the phone.  Honoring this time as if I were going to a class keeps me on track with the one-year completion goal. Add to all of this, there is no travel time going to and from class.
One evening, I was taking an assessment for my educational law class.  The phone rang and my dogs began barking all at once.  After the answering machine silenced and I went out to calm the dogs, I returned to the computer laughing.  What could be more like working in education, than needing to multitask, calm a situation and return to the job at hand.
Any takers?  If you have been thinking about going back to school, take the time to find a program that works for you to continue to advance your career.  Make it your educational resolution and sharpen your saw.
Be careful of one thing – when taking classes online, there’s nobody to wake you if you happen to fall asleep in class.



Anne Douglas is Dean of Instruction for Sam Houston Math, Science and Technology Center, a comprehensive high school in Houston, TX.

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