Growing up in a single parent home where I was the youngest by five years, my dad and I spent a lot of time together. We had a lot of the same interests, and he was just cooler than most dads. One thing we did together was work out at the gym in the evenings after my practices end and he would get home from work. I’ll never forget how he would always say to the worker at the front desk on our way out in late December, “See you in February.” He hated going to the gym when it was packed. Who wants to wait for a treadmill or a different machine to open up? No one. He knew that by the time February would roll around, our gym would be back to the usuals. All of the people who wanted to “get in better shape” had all given up on that resolution and were back to their normal selves. I remember thinking…I’ll never make a resolution I can’t keep.
For educators, I think this can be a huge trap as well. We have all of these elaborate plans and ideas that we want to do for each new school year. We plan unbelievable projects, units, and ways we are going to be more innovative with our students and their learning all summer long. By September 1, a lot of teachers stop going to the gym. Then January rolls around and we remember those things we wanted to do to benefit our students. In education, we sort of get a second chance when it comes to resolutions. Having goals and plans to improve what you do for your students is amazing, but my fear is that most teachers don’t stick with them. Why? Too big? Not enough time? What causes these resolutions/goals to go away like our trips to the gym?
I think sometimes, we think too big. I’m a dreamer, so it feels awkward for me to type this paragraph. But I think it’s true. If we think too big, then nothing will get accomplished. Is it better to have the greatest, most elaborate ideas ever and do nothing with it, or take it small and do everything you set out to do to increase opportunities for your students? It’s not a very thought provoking question. Of course we want to put something into action. I want to challenge educators to make a new kind of New Year’s Resolution this year. My challenge is for you to scale it down. Every week, try one small thing that is either different for you, or something that has been difficult for you. Don’t throw out all that you’ve done all year and start from scratch. Take one thing and find a way to work it in throughout the week. It can be as big as helping them develop learner agency by personalizing more of their learning, or it could be as small as offering students more choice in the way they are assessed. The point is that you are working towards being better at your craft. You are giving your students what they need…a teacher who is showing them what it means to have a growth mindset and to take risks.
Don’t pay for the gym membership for 12 months and only go in January! Take small steps and set goals that you know you can stick with.
I’d love to hear how you are going to grow this semester!