news & tips
A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching
It is the season when our thoughts turn to how this year has passed and how the next one should be better. Toward that end we make resolutions. In the classroom we do that on a day to day basis. But, it is good to look back at the ending of one calendar year and figure out what we want to do different or better in the next.
There are lots of sites that list teacher resolutions if you need help getting a start but you may face a mountain of ideas. I always select only three main goals. There is no cosmic connection between that number and the universe of teaching. Three is the maximum number of resolutions to which I can give my maximum attention. I always have a longer list in case my attention span expands and these do infiltrate my work. In the early days of my teaching the resolutions were all teaching related:
- Grade papers more quickly
- Do not worry if the students like you, you are there to teach.
- Connect with teachers you admire and let them help you improve your craft.
Later as I became comfortable with classroom management and my lessons were almost committed to memory the relationships became more important:
- Have more fun with colleagues. Schedule fun lunches and events, send funny cards, play more practical jokes.
- Learn to delegate. Let others help you more.
- Give yourself time to breathe each day.
In the later years of my classroom teaching the healthier aspects of teaching became my focus:
- Get a good night sleep, eat better food and relax more. Take care of your health.
- Give yourself a few nights a week off from being a teacher.
- Learn to fight battles large enough to matter but small enough to win.
We can become a bit myopic in our teaching. We remember the toughest kids and our failures rather than our successes. We can become a bit single sighted in our resolutions as well. That is why it is always a good idea to look at what other teachers are thinking in their resolutions. The absolute best set I have found comes from the Teacher Leaders Network last year:
In technology there are some Web 2.0 resolutions for teachers offered by Graham Stanley:
This resolution focus should be shared in your classes. I used to keep my resolutions private until I figured out that if they are more public there is more pressure on me to actually pay attention to them. For that reason I ask my students to make 3 resolutions as well. One of my students found a blog in which a young woman began a quest to make a difference in her community in 25 days. She called it 25 days to make a difference. Students and teachers contributed to the blog. This is where resolutions become express trains to reform. To view their ideas check it out:
In the last 30 years of teaching I think that all of the good changes I have seen have begun with me getting out of my own way. Resolutions helped me do that. They also helped me listen more to my students, to enjoy teaching a lot more, to worry less and become more proactive, to enjoy the short time I have with these amazing young people, to embrace technology and change as exciting, to connect with the larger community around school and to surround myself with positive and supportive colleagues who help me become a better teacher. The journey begins anew each year with only 3 resolutions. I have a lot to select from this year and my list of some favorite past resolutions is getting longer. I will add them here as perhaps they will spark an idea for your three resolutions. Remember, the journey is short and the time goes by so fast. Enjoy the ride.
- Make an effort to keep up on current events both in the class and in school. These will work their way into your lessons and make them more powerful and relevant.
- Resolve to know and accept that there will be days that do not go well. Remember the good days, learn from the bad and let them go.
- Resolve to give the kids more ownership of the room (let them do bulletin boards and help select posters/photos)
- Learn to say no to duties and favors that cut into your time and push you over the limit. Only say yes when it is right.
- Resolve to mix things up. Do something a little different to add new life into an old lesson.
- Take time to have fun with a fellow teacher. Tell a good joke, laugh a bit at the funny things happening in each other’s classes.
- Give yourself at least one minute of breathing space (more is better) between classes. No kids, no rushing, just think time. Give the kids something quiet to do for a few minutes at the start of each class.
- Take care of your health. Eat well, sleep, exercise and make a plan for regular checkups.
- Resolve to remember that the student in your class that is driving you crazy may be the one fixing your furnace on a cold winter day and be firm, fair and compassionate.
- Resolve to remember that students do not yet realize how your lessons will help them in the future…but you do.
- Resolve to learn something new about a student each day.
- Resolve to compliment students on things that matter.
- Eat lunch with fun people and let those who frequently complain eat with someone else.
- Learn to tackle problem large enough to matter and small enough to conquer.
- Let someone who is better at organizing you help you organize your classroom.
- Straighten your desk every day before you leave so you come back to a clean start each day.
- Keep a box of fun things on your desk (toys, a stress ball, and some funny figurines). You will need something to play with as you think through tough problems.
- Do not worry about administrative problems you cannot change. Learn to deal with things when they face you not just when you think they are a vague threat.
- Stay positive! There are lots of chances to go negative. Resist that with all that is in you! Walk away from negative conversations.
- Learn some new technology and use it to help kids learn or get yourself organized.
- Learn to delegate. Let others help you more.
- Talk to parents more often and enlist their help with their kids.
- Resolve to have at least 3 nights a week when you do not take work home.
- Say something nice to each student as they enter your classroom.
- Send and celebrate birthdays and special events with the other teachers in the school. Schedule some fun lunch or after school events to make the place more fun loving.
Shannon C ‘de Baca is a passionate educator who teaches at Iowa Learning Online. Visit her blog at HotChalkScience.com.