By Peggy Wuenstel — One of my favorite aspects of the teaching profession is that it provides us with many opportunities to start again. We are able to begin anew, after each month, after a break, a quarter or a semester, and although it doesn’t line up exactly on January 1st, we rejoin the world for traditional resolutions. Things that haven’t gone particularly well can be reinvented. Items that we have forgotten to incorporate in lessons can get their due.
It is essential that we teach students the processes of review, revision, and reinvention not only by our words but by our actions. There is no better time than the New Year to put this into practice. I always make personal resolutions, usually involving weight loss, exercise and healthy diet, keeping my house cleaner and my life better organized. This year I am making several teaching resolutions as well
Have Fun I want to take the time to play games, go places, read engaging literature, be silly. This process of educating children is serious business and it is becoming more so. A recent TIME magazine cover story touted the positive aspects of STRESS! We need to remember that our students need the restorative features of fun, hilarity, play, and stress release. The power of peak experience, described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his book FLOW reminds us that we will forever recall those moments in which we felt supremely successful, unconditionally accepted, and blissfully happy. Let’s hope we can provide several of those moments for our students this year.
Limit the Criticism It shuts kids down and doesn’t teach them anything. Instead, praise what you like, model what you want to see. The Conscious Discipline approach outlined by Dr. Beck Bailey suggests the replacement of the traditional STOP language that we employ to a statement of what we would like to see in those we interact with. “Stop touching me” becomes “Please keep your hands to yourself” and “Stop talking 1!”becomes”Please listen carefully to the directions I am going to give you.” Even our voices become quieter and gentler when we make these changes. Related to this resolution is the idea that our positive language should have specificity and purpose. I am of the belief that “Good job!” without accompanying detail can shut things down as rapidly as criticism. When we take the extra few seconds to say what we liked and offer the map to doing the same thing again, we provide far more than a pat on the back.
Lead by Example Do tasks together. When we show a child what we want, we are more likely to get it. Read for pleasure, revise your work, admit mistakes, volunteer, be an example of character. My students love to tell me, “I saw you at church on Sunday”. We live in a world where we often tell others to do what we are unwilling to do ourselves. The New Year is a time to change that.
Have Reasonable Expectations It is essential for educators to learn and remember behavioral expectations. What we want is not always realistic, at least not in the time frame that we allow ourselves or that society expects us to perform within. We need to set our children up for success, not failure by designing activities that allow students to complete them successfully and adding challenge in achievable steps. Doing our best to incorporate the research in neurology, cultural influences, pre-requisite skill development, and motivation makes both teachers and learners thrive.
Expect that Not All Progress is Linear Two steps forward and one step back is the way teaching goes much of the time. If it was a formula or a recipe, everyone could do this job well. It requires attention, analysis and adaptation and all often on the fly. It asks us to be flexible, optimistic, and persistent.
I guess this was a pretty substantial list of resolutions after all. My best wishes to you all for a blessed holiday season, and productive New Year, one filled with all the gifts you need to share yourselves with others in the coming year.