Happy New Year!
I hope this new year brings a lot of great things your way. While I’m not a big fan of resolutions in my personal life, I do always set some in my teacher life. Here are 10 resolutions I think all teachers should have this year.
1. Build Stronger Relationships
Classrooms rise and fall based on the relationships within. Take time to get to know your students. Each morning or class period when they come in take a moment to greet them by name. Ask them how they’re doing. Acknowledge them when they do great things or when they attempted to do great things but didn’t quite make it. The more positive your relationships with your students the better atmosphere within your classroom.
Create stronger relationships with the adults that pop into your room too. Check in with them when you see them. Say hello with a smile! Get to know a bit more about them. Even if it is just a teacher who pops in for 10 seconds to pull a kid out. The stronger the relationships between the adults in your classroom the better functioning your classroom will be. Remember it takes a village, you aren’t at this alone.
2. Become More Culturally Responsive
Over the last few years I have learned a lot about being culturally responsive. I am in no way done learning and have so much that I am still learning. I learned a lot in 2018 and I’m working to learn ever more in 2019.
Every educator should strive to be culturally responsive. We have racist educators all over the country and even the world. At Halloween, we had teachers dress up as the boarder wall and Mexicans. As if that’s not bad enough we had more teacher defending what they did because they’re “good people.” Now, let’s get real here, good people aren’t racist. They just aren’t. We can’t ignore the fact that this was blatant racism. Sometimes we like to find comfort in calling racist acts things like “a lapse in judgement” or “insensitive” while it is both of those things it is also straight up racist. Step outside of your comfort zone.
It isn’t enough to not be racist, we have to be actively anti-racist.
Ok, so how do you become more culturally responsive and anti-racist? Good question. First of all you must understand that it is not a member of the global majority’s problem to fix racism. You also learn about terms like global majority and don’t brush off politically correct terms but learn why the shift in language is important. It is also not their problem to educate you when you don’t understand something or when you feel uncomfortable or attacked. Ok now here are some easy steps to follow to become more culturally responsive.
- Follow people of the global majority on social media. We all have social media so do a little review of who you’re following. If you are only following people who look and think like you (or slightly differently but pretty much the same) then this is a place to start. Your social media should be both a window and a mirror. I would argue a window more than a mirror. If your social media just provides a mirror to you then you must find some windows. I started with my social media this year and it made a world of difference.
- Teach about different cultures year round… and accurately. You better not be pulling out resources about Black Americans for the first time on Martin Luther King Jr Day. Don’t teach that Martin Luther King Jr’s dream has been realized in this country when there is inequality all around us. When I was in college we learned that the old way of teaching went like this… Imagine a storage room near a classroom and in the storage room there are different boxes filled with books and activities related to people of the global majority. During certain points in the year the box comes off the shelf and is taught about and then returned. Oh, it’s Black History Month, let’s learn about slavery and civil rights. Oh, it’s Cinco de Mayo let’s learn about Mexicans. Time to learn about Native Americans because it is Thanksgiving. Oh it’s Woman’s History Month let’s learn about women’s place in history. Let me tell you that I went to college a long time ago but there are classrooms who still pull out the boxes (perhaps figuratively), feature a global majority group, and put the boxes back on the shelf. We have to do better.
- Buy resources created by members of that culture. Is the resource about Black History Month created by a Black American? What better way to make sure your resource is accurate than get it directly from the source. Also what better way to support people of the global majority than to purchase resources from them. Don’t do cute, do meaningful and educational and accurate.
- Examine your own bias and explore your identity. Sometimes I see posts on Instagram or Twitter and they rub me the wrong way. When this happens I reflect a bit and try to decide why that happened. Then I do research and try to educate myself further. We all need to do this. I was raised in a white family in a white conservative neighborhood. I didn’t know much about people who were different than me. I can’t live in that bubble and I need to realize that I may have certain biases because of this. I need to recognize my own bias and work to learn more and confront it. We can all learn more about ourselves and grow.
- Remember: You don’t get to decide what is an isn’t racist. If a First American says using the word tribe or spirit animal is offensive to their culture you stop. If someone says it is offensive to dress in their cultural dress, you don’t. As a person who is not a member of the global majority, I listen to those who are and take the lead from them. Just because you just don’t see racism on a daily basis does not mean that it does not exist. Recognize that privilege and try to do something for the cause. It isn’t enough to not be racist we must actively be anti racist if we want to see true equality in our future. Isn’t that what we want for all of our students?
3. collaborate More WIth Your Peers
First of all, if you skipped number 2 because it made you feel uncomfortable or because you’re not racist go back and read it- it is 100% meant for you.
Stop. Collaborate and Listen. Can you ever start writing about collaboration without a little nod to Vanilla Ice? I don’t think so. Collaboration is what makes or breaks teachers. I have learned so much through collaborating with peers. A district I used to work for constantly repeated that the smartest person in the room was the room. Think about that. We can learn so much from each other and I think collaborating is sometimes overlooked. You are surrounded by so many smart, wonderful and brilliant teachers-why not collaborate more with them. Even if you disagree about education philosophies you can always learn something new through collaboration.
4. Create a Classroom With More Joy
Once when I was teaching in WI we had to write our SLO about reading. We emailed a professor at a nearby university because our district always said students below grade level should move up 1.5 years over the course of a year. We wanted to read more research on this practice before setting our goal. Instead of emailing us back with any research she emailed us to say we should set a grade level goal based on joy within the classroom. While it didn’t work for our SLO, I think creating more joy in the classroom is always a good idea.
This resolution goes hand in hand with the first resolution on this list. How often are kids smiling in your classroom? Do you hear laughter coming from within? Are kids eager to learn and engage in learning? Are student interests at the heart of your classroom?
5. Use Your Planning Time Intentionally
Sometimes I like to pretend that I always use my planning time wisely but I don’t. Sometimes I spend my planning time chit chatting with my teacher friends who also have prep. Sometimes I spend my planning time catching up with my assistant. Sometimes I use my planning time to walk a lap around our entire school, which is sometimes needed. All of the things I do can be great but they can also get in the way of the work that needs to be done.
Sharing assessment data and planning next steps for certain students is important to chat about with my assistant teacher. Getting ideas and brainstorming is helpful chatting with my teacher friends. Taking a walk while reflecting on an idea is useful.
Plan out what you use each prep time for and stick to it. I started doing that at the start of the school year and it has been a game changer. First of all, I am so much more productive during the day. I hardly bring anything home anymore. Second of all my classroom has run so much smoother. Of course from time to time I have to step away from my scheduled out preps due to a meeting or something but it really does work wonders.
6. Learn a New Skill
When was the last time you learned a new skill? If you are a teacher and you can’t remember then that is a problem. This past year I became a Google Certified Educator, maybe that would be a place to start. Read a book, try something new, engage in a twitter chat, do SOMETHING NEW.
Right now I am working on my Level 2 Google educator certification and it is tricky. Mostly because I teach first grade with one iPad so I don’t have a lot of use for all the cool Google features but I am learning a lot. Learning is what is important. Seek out opportunities for learning and growth in your professional life.
7. Organize Yourself and Your Time
A major goal of mine within the classroom is organization. If you only know me outside of school, you’ll think this is hilarious because I am the least organized person in the world. At school, I must have a Sasha Fierce type of alter ego who is extremely organized. (If you do not know who Sasha Fierce is then you need to hit up Google ASAP or unfollow this blog #beyonceforlife)
This resolution obviously relates to resolution number 5. I do have one schedule prep (not the whole time but a chunk) set aside for organization. When I am organized the world is happy. I don’t have the most organized class this year and we are taking time each month to work on different organizational goals. Currently, we’re working on putting caps back on markers. We’re in the midst of a serious marker crisis. Each day we’re losing upwards of 7 markers due to cap issues. I find this insane! We might have a marker lockdown if this sitch continues into February. Also, if you have any solutions, hit me up!
8. Increase Student Engagement
More student engagement leads to more joy. (Something I just made up but can probably be proven true.) Please see resolution number 4 about joy. Every once in a while I’ll do a quick engagement survey to see where we’re at. A post about completing an engagement survey will be up on the blog soon. You might want to subscribe so that you don’t miss out.
Increase engagement by following student interest. We recently read The Quickest Kid in Clarksville and my kids were fascinated by Wilma Rudolph. We then searched our classroom library database and found Wilma Unlimted in the grade 4 classroom library. We had to run to that classroom immediately and interrupt their learning to get it! We were so excited! This story is LONG. Like really long for first graders. It also uses so many hard words. I thought for sure our class was going to give up the quest to learn more about Wilma but we did not. After reading (over the course of 3 weeks) the story they wanted to see if there were any youtube videos of her racing. There were. Now some kids are researching further. This was not in the plans. I just read The Quickest Kid in Clarksville with the intention of focusing on character actions and feelings but we ended up doing a little research on Wilma Rudolph. Instead of learning about characters we learned that readers can find out more about what they read by researching. The squeals of delight that came from our classroom as the kids saw a picutre on google that was also in the text wmade this completely worthwhile.
9. Use Less Worksheets
Yeah… we gotta talk. It might be time for you and the copier to start seeing other people. I’m not saying you can’t be friends and see each other from time to time but you don’t need what it’s giving you on the daily. Trust me you and your students will be better off if you just take a break. I don’t make many copies at all. We use a lot of whiteboards and scrap paper to work on problems. Recently our school’s copier has been on the fritz and it has caused me to rethink a few things. Maybe just play pretend that the copier is broken. Can you still deliver your content without the paper? Maybe not, then make your copies but maybe you can reimagine your class and find a new possibility.
10. Create a Better Work/Life Balance
Since living in Poland my work/life balance has hit the ultimate balance. This is partially due to the culture and the expectations of teachers at my school. I wouldn’t be honored as a teacher or be considered so dedicated if I worked all weekend or extra long hours each day. People would be concerned about my time management and just think I was straight up crazy. There is more to life than teaching. Happy teacher, happy classroom. Stressed teacher, stressed classroom.
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Happy New Year!
Take a moment to leave a comment with one of your resolutions for the rest of this school year!