Starting the New Year can be tricky for anyone, but it's really tricky for an educator. We're in the middle of a school year. Our calendars work very differently from the rest of the world. Even though we might be in the thick of it and not really thinking about new beginnings on January 1, there are still a number of simple things we can do to make the New Year great for us -- and our students.
New Year's Resolutions
Here's something that could be fun for the classroom. Ask students to come up with resolutions. I think it's important for students to remember the past year and reflect on ways that they might be able to personally improve. January is the midway mark for most schools, so it's the perfect time to consider improvements. Students could blog about these reflections and set themselves goals for the coming months. They can support one another as they try to accomplish these goals over the rest of the year. That type of support is key when looking to change or improve.
If getting students to write about personal goals might be a bit much for them, try a whole-class discussion about resolutions. It might be a perfect time to revisit the classroom rules and see where changes could be made. Suggest a few student-created resolutions to address any areas that might have been overlooked at the start of the school year. This act will give the students an opportunity to reflect about how their classroom runs and how it could be better. Their ownership of the class would increase, and it's important for them to know that classroom rules can be revisited. The New Year is the perfect time for these things.
New Year's Reflections
For the teacher, the New Year is a perfect time for reflection. A teacher should use winter break to look back at what has been accomplished at the halfway point of the school year. What worked? What needs to be fixed? These are just a couple of the important questions teachers need to ask themselves -- there are many different ways to reflect on the past year. A personal diary is one way to keep track of your thoughts. It's a private way to think about what you've done. If you're feeling more open, a blog is a great way to share your thoughts and reflect on the year. No matter what you choose, take a few moments to reflect on 2014 and see how you can make 2015 better.
New Year's Risks
Make 2015 the year you choose to take a risk. This could be anything, such as a lesson you always wanted to try but were afraid to implement. Maybe 2015 will be the year that you offer to do professional development for your district. Perhaps you'll finally work up the nerve to join the Twitter chat you've been watching for the past year. No matter what it is, this time of year offers everyone the chance to try something brand new and see where it takes them. In 2010, my big risk was starting a blog and a Twitter account. I had no idea where it was going to take me, but I made it my year to take that risk. Big risks might lead to big rewards, but no risks will guarantee no rewards. Make 2015 the year that you do something memorable.
New Year's Laughs
Most importantly, start 2015 with a laugh. More tests are going to come down from the top and more buzzwords will be thrown around, but it's key for all educators to remember that they should take the time to laugh. This is something that I forgot for a while, and I'm glad that I found it again. There will always be that deadline, that angry parent, that annoying administrator, and a host of other things that will inevitably get in the way, but it's important to always make the time to smile. This can be through simply watching funny movies or goofing around with your children. Something needs to be in place that allows you to laugh out loud in real life. It's the best cure for what ails you.
We also need to remind students to laugh as well. They're feeling some of the same stress that we feel, on top of the added stress of being kids. They're still worrying about all of the social issues that we (hopefully) don't have to fret about on a daily basis. They need to be reminded that it's still OK to be silly. Sometimes that means you'll get to take the lead for some in-class YouTube Karaoke. Sometimes it's just letting kids tell silly stories in class. There will always be time for curriculum, but there are limited opportunities to make our students laugh and smile. Make sure to help them do that from time to time in the New Year.
The one thing that you should not do is look at the New Year and start counting all of the things that you have to complete. Embrace the wondrous possibilities that a new calendar year brings to you and your students. The chalkboard or interactive whiteboard is clean and ready for the New Year. What are you going to do with it?
Please leave your thoughts below on how you're starting the New Year.