Happy New Year!
Well, teacher friend, we made it to January! It’s time to look forward and set some new years resolutions for teachers! My teacher life in 2019 with such joy and a renewed passion for teaching. I am approaching the second half of the school year, feeling so refreshed as an educator. My teacher resolutions will look so different from ones I’ve set in the past.
There have been years though where I haven’t hit January feeling the way I do now. We all go through different seasons of teaching. A lot is coming up for us in the second half of the school year. Here are a few new years resolutions for teachers to help us thrive in 2020!
New Year's Resolutions For Teachers
Take Time For You
“A good teacher is like a candle- it consumes itself to light the way for others.” -Mustafa Kemal Ataturk
I’m sure that Mustafa had the most excellent intentions when this was said, but we as teachers are too often candles. The problem with being like a candle is that they burn out, and teacher burn out is real. I have felt it; I know so many teachers who have also felt it and some who leave teaching altogether because of burnout.
Once you’re burned out, you’re of no use to anyone. So, let’s agree not to listen to this quote and instead act like trees. A tree gives off oxygen, which is very useful for us, it provides shelter for animals, and it helps fertilize the soil. A tree doesn’t consume itself to provide for others. It is strong and stable. If a tree could, I’m sure it would take time for itself. Invest in yourself. You’re of no use to anyone if you’re burned out.
–Leave your school bag at work over the weekend. I did this a few years ago, and I am telling you it was magical! I didn’t do the work I brought home anyway, and it just stressed me out. Reclaiming my weekends meant I was investing in myself and wasn’t putting all my energy into school.
–Read for fun. When I taught grade 3 in the US, I was experiencing all sorts of burn out. One day a student asked if I did my 20 minutes of reading the night before. I hadn’t because I was trying to survive, but at that moment, I realized maybe I should read. So I got myself a reading log and started reading for 20 minutes every night, just for fun, like I asked my students. Invest in yourself and take time to read.
–Take a trip. Anytime teaching gets a little too stressful; I take a quick weekend getaway anywhere I can. In Poland, that often meant going to the mountains in Zakopane. In Wisconsin, sometimes it just meant going to my sister’s house or going to a spa. It’s amazing what a little weekend away can do for you. In Oman, I try to take a trip to the beach.
–A little retail therapy never hurt anyone. While my bank account may beg to differ a good trip to Target, Zara, TJ Maxx, or Sephora could be just the reset you need.
If you’ve taught the TCRWP Units of Study, there’s a lesson in the grade 3 reading curriculum that got me one year. You teach the kids that sometimes readers fall into the trap of reading on autopilot. I sometimes think as teachers, myself included, we get stuck in the trap of teaching on autopilot. We go through the motions and teach the most beautiful lessons, but we are not present in the classroom.
Start with just celebrating small moments of joy in your classroom and work from there. It could be taking that moment to laugh alongside your students instead of immediately redirecting attention back to the lesson is just what’s needed. One year I was having a hard time, so I jotted down three joyful moments each day. These three moments were sometimes simple (like no one complained their dry erase marker was dead) and sometimes were meaningful moments (all those lightbulb moments we live for).
Notice when you check out, and autopilot begins. There are days I feel checked out during morning meeting. So, I acknowledge that and work on my active listening. Sometimes I find myself in writing moving from writer to writer conferring without really being in the moment as much as a could be. Notice when it happens, because it happens to all of us, and check back in.
Plan with Intention
This is an excellent resolution for teachers- including me! Use your prep times to your advantage and plan out your teaching. I find that the moments that I am the most stressed out as a teacher have also been the moments I am the least prepared. Click HERE to read more about structuring your prep time.
Teaching is a lot of planning, but ensuring that your teaching is intentional means that you’re doing what’s best for your students. Taking your prep times to intentionally plan out each lesson to guide your students where they’re going next means that you’ll not only be more prepared but also more effective as a teacher.
Who doesn’t like feeling appreciated? At one school I worked at, we took time at the start of every staff meeting to honor someone. Everyone needed to show up with an idea of a staff member they would like to acknowledge and why. You never knew who was going to be asked to honor someone and who was going to be honored. This little 5 minutes of appreciation set the tone for our work together.
How else could you appreciate someone? One of my teacher friends used to bring treats to a weekly meeting; another one popped in with Starbucks after a rough day, one principal would write little cards of appreciation, one principal would sneak into your classroom and tweet out something great you were doing. The ways of appreciating each other are endless.
This year I am working to incorporate more movement into my classroom intentionally. We use GoNoodle, and sometimes we use Adventure to Fitness. We have a cool Spark bike in our class, that is great. It’s not unique to my classroom, and many other classrooms at our school have one. I also intentionally plan movement breaks into my schedule to engage students in moving, not just sitting.
I have worked to get moving during the day. Sometimes that means taking the long path to the staff lounge, and other times, it means taking a walking break around the school during prep to keep moving. Moving throughout the day is so important. I find myself able to focus much better after a little movement session.
Reignite Your Passion
Listen, there have been moments in my teaching career when I’ve just thought I was done. I’ve had to work hard to remember I even had a passion for teaching at some points over the last nine years. It happens to all of us. Reigniting your passion won’t look the same as other teachers, but it is necessary to keep your sanity and stay in the game. This was one of my teacher new year’s resolutions last year.
Many, many years ago, I created a teacher twitter account to connect with educators who were also passionate. That was extremely helpful when I felt I was stuck. I could see the hope and passion of so many other educators. That pushed me to push myself and do better as a teacher.
One year to reignite my passion, I separated my teacher Instagram from my personal Instagram. I made a new account so that I wouldn’t have to see teacher stuff continually, and I could see more of my friend’s posts. While it might seem counterintuitive to want to see teacher stuff less, it was what did the trick. I found myself constantly feeling like I wasn’t enough as a teacher when scrolling through Instagram. Once I separated the accounts, I was able to only look at my teacher Instagram when I wanted. It helped me focus on my own life but sometimes look for great ideas when I needed to.
One time I paired up with a motivated colleague, and we took classes together on literacy. We were in it together and pushed one another to try new things. It was so fun; we met up once a week to discuss our success and our failures to support one another’s learning.
There are so many different ways to reignite your passion for teaching. Some ideas that I’ve used in the past wouldn’t work out for me now, so figure out what works best for you at this moment in time and go after it.
Try Something New
Yup! Trying something new as a teacher is so important. In September of this year, I found myself sitting on the floor of my classroom (because I was making an anchor chart down there), thinking that I hadn’t tried any new strategies for a while. I went to my computer where I had a list of new things I wanted to try (because I am a nerd like that) and I chose one and tried it out the next day. It was so fun to do something I hadn’t done before. Trying something new can reignite that spark you had for teaching, it can take you off autopilot, and it can just be fun!
When’s the last time you tried something new in your classroom?
Take Credit For Your Success
This last one is deep: why not go out strong?
Once I was sitting with my assistant principal during my toughest year as a teacher. She complimented the fact that all of my students who began the year on a behavior intervention had graduated. I no longer had any students on check in check out. Graduating from check-in check out did not happen at our school. I deflected the compliment and put it back on my students. They were doing such hard work, continually trying out new strategies and working to change their behaviors. She stopped me immediately.
“Natasha, don’t deflect the compliment. You need to recognize that this may not have happened with another teacher. You’re the reason your kids have made this growth. It is because of you, and you need to realize that. You’re a great teacher, and you work so hard. You deserve to take the credit for your successes.”
It was that little speech that made me realize how often I attribute my success to others. I think that’s just the way we are as teachers. Of course, this student grew so much because of their efforts. But also because of the time you took to teach them what they needed. Take credit for your success. It feels uncomfortable at first, but then it just feels great. Don’t forget to recognize everyone else who helped with the success yet also remember it was you who did that too!
What Are your Teacher New Year's Resolutions?
What are other great new year’s resolutions for teachers? Do you have any resolutions for your teacher life? Have any other strategies teachers could benefit from?
Leave all your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!