By Adrin Fisher
January is a natural time for Americans to reevaluate our lives. We all know the mantra: New Year, New You! Many of us make New Year’s resolutions. The most popular revolve around health and appearance: to eat healthier, to exercise more, to lose weight. We all want to get better.
However, according to a January 1, 2019 article on Inc.com, while 60% of us make a resolution, only 8% achieve it.
So, why bother making those resolutions in the first place?
Well, for one thing, you’re not dead yet. One day you will be (Memento mori), and then it will be too late to improve or to change or to finish that bucket list. But TODAY it’s not too late!
I’d like to offer my suggestions for you—a busy, harried teacher. Some days, you’re on top of the world: all your students are cooperative, engaged, and really learning. Other days, your plans go sideways and you spend whole periods putting out fires and holding on by your fingernails. I’ve been there. Many times. And in that spirit, here are my 2019 Resolutions for you (and me), teacher-friend.
INVEST IN SELF-CARE
- Accept that it will all get done eventually. It’s ok not to work through your lunch. It’s ok not to spend your entire weekend or break grading papers or planning. Teaching is like laundry. There’s always more to do, so set limits and stick to them.
- Do things for you. Polish your nails. Go to the gym. Take a walk. Tree bathe. Schedule a movie date with your mom or your kids. Watch garbage TV.
- Upgrade your environment. Buy a new plant. Take some time to straighten up your desk and throw away dead pens. Light a lovely candle while you’re working at home.
- Reading is not optional. Right after my first son was born, I thought, This is it. I must be a good mom-teacher-wife-friend so I have to give up something. Reading has to go. Bad plan. Not taking time to read SOMETHING of my choice every day left me feeling unmoored and unbalanced. Read to live.
- Don’t just read for school. Read books or poems or articles you might want to use in your classes—sure! But read MORE for joy.
- Read because you expect your students to, and good teachers can do everything they expect of their kids. Reading new things—hard things—reminds us of the struggle of working through text we don’t like; and this struggle is something our students face every day—even in our class. Read to empathize.
- Reflect on your practice. Being a reflective practitioner is a key part of teaching well. Think about your strengths as a teacher, but—more importantly—think about your weaknesses. Try keeping a journal or—something more my speed—quickly jotting ideas for improvement on your planning calendars.
- Attend a conference or professional meeting. There’s something about being in front of an excited presenter that just gets the teaching-blood flowing.
- Read a professional book or follow a professional blog or podcast. Even better, do it with a friend. Talk about your classrooms and what you can realistically put into practice. Remember, no matter your accolades, you can always get better.
CHECK THE ATTITUDE
- Be a #MondayTeacher. #MondayTeacher is a term coined by motivational speaker Danny Brassell and adopted by my husband to describe teachers who are invested, not just working for the weekend or summer break. Don’t just mark time. Be the teacher who’s lively and excited and engaged, who strives to make every day a personal best!
- Surround yourself with positivity. Someone at the lunch table bringing you down? Skip lunch for a day. Always near the hecklers at Faculty Senate? Try a new seat. It’s a lot easier to manage your attitude and expectations when you’re with like-minded folks.
- Remember, teaching is your job, not your life. Writer Anne Lamott reminds us not to be crushed by demands for perfection. In Bird by Bird, Lamott encourages writers to just write, to just get that first draft done one page at a time. Later, there will be time for improvements. Even though we live in an Instagram world, real life is messy. As my great-Aunt Frances used to say, “And that’s ok, too.”
Now, if you’re like me, you might want to wait for THAT DAY to begin your resolutions. You’ve already missed January 1. Does that mean you have to wait a year? Of course not! Lunar New Year (celebrated by over 1.5 billion people worldwide) happens on February 5, 2019.
Or, you can be like my cousin Patrick, who recently wrote, “I don’t really believe in New Year’s Resolutions because we are free to make changes to ourselves whenever we want to.” Yes, we are truly free to improve ourselves any day–every day. No matter when you choose to begin, as indie-rocker Frank Turner says, “We can get better, because we’re not dead yet.”
So go forth, teacher-friends, and resolve to get better!
WVCTE wants you to contribute to the conversation. What resolutions do you have for the new year? How do you plan to get better? Leave us a comment, Tweet us your thoughts @WVCTE, or connect with us on Facebook!
Adrin Fisher is a contributing blogger for WVCTE. When she’s not answering pointed questions about in-text citations, helping students relate to the ever-angsty Hamlet, or conferencing with budding writers, you can find her whipping up a batch of Turkish Delight, tree bathing, or pounding through a good novel. You can follow her on Twitter @fisheradrin