2017: A look Back
In the education world there are really two "new years" that we encounter. The one we all celebrate on January 1st and the start of a new school year. Both are a great time to reflect on the last year's challenges, successes and look forward to what we can accomplish in the year to come.
I kicked off January 2017 by publishing my first blog post titled, "How can blogging bring value to your personal and professional life?" In the post I talk about my #oneword2017 that would be a focus for the year. The word I selected was "action". At that time I was feeling very much like a consumer of information without ever creating, and blogging was one way I chose to reflect and share what I was consuming. There were also areas in my life that I felt were stagnant, and with some action steps I could propel them forward. James Clear does a great job explaining the power of action in this post, "The Mistake Smart People Make: Being in Motion vs. Taking Action". I subscribe to his weekly email blasts as they give me a good push towards my goals as he constantly reminds me that the action is more important than the goal itself.
I've listed some of the highlights of goals I reached that offer a glimpse of the "action" I took in 2017 that stood out to me as I closed out the year.
2018: Moving Forward
The most important variable in relationships is emotional connections.
- Jim Knight
The last book I read in 2017 was "Better Conversations" by Jim Knight. Through the eleven books I read with colleagues, the authors continually mentioned the importance of relationships as a key indicator of success. This helped me determine that my focus in 2018 would be on strengthening relationships with family, friends, and at work. I blogged about it in my last post, "What are You Most Grateful For?".
As I was reflecting on 2017 I felt like I had a good level of action, but a bulk of it was for my own growth and gain. I talk often about seeking balance in life, and what I'm talking about really is a balance in my relationships. I may rarely feel that elusive balance, but what I do notice is when I feel a strong imbalance in one particular area. In the education world the imbalance comes in different waves. This is why looking ahead in 2018 I want to put more focus on the emotional connections being made in the relationships I have with family, friends, and colleagues.
When thinking further about the actions to reach the goal of strengthening relationships, it includes a lot that I learned in the book, "Better Conversations". How to be a better listener, make emotional connections, offer and accept bids from others for those connections. One way to connect is to find activities that bring more joy to our lives. I feel in the last couple of years I have not allowed enough time in my life to really have quality fun with others in my life. I know reality includes work, to-do lists, stress, etc, and can't be rainbows and sunshine all the time. No one can change that, but I can make efforts to find ways to make it more joyful.
When I look at this in action it can include something as simple as taking the extra ten minutes during the work day to joke and have fun conversations with co-workers, a half hour to play a game with my kids, an hour to sit and relax with a glass of wine with my husband or plan for a babysitter so we can go out. I need to schedule in more "phone dates" with my best friends that live far away, plan overnight trips to visit friends, check out a new restaurant or go for a cup of coffee with those close by. I LOVE to travel and I need to make the budgetary and time efforts to add that back into my life. I started thinking about this at the beginning of December and becoming more aware of when I worked this into my life to build up relationships.
Over winter break I spent an afternoon planning the initial steps of a weekend trip to visit a friend, a trip with my best friends over spring break, a family trip to take my mother-in-law to see the ocean for the first time. I signed up with friends for a 10 mile race with music along the path and brunch at the end. I have plans to run a half marathon and do another mud run with my family and friends. I took up an offer from my sister to watch our kids so Mike and I could go out on a date night. I made a point to take time to play hot wheels, Legos, and basketball with my boys. We painted. We bundled up to go sledding. I created a chasing game called the "kissing monster" to keep us from going too crazy during the cold snap...and my boys keep requesting that game. I have a closet that didn't get cleaned out, this blog post didn't get done as fast, and I have emails to still answer. In due time that will happen, but I can let some of that go as the to-do list will never end, but time with others can.
Joy in the Classroom
Below is a very popular image that tends to pop into my mind at this time of year. It is labeled as phases a "new teacher" goes through, but I really look at it as phases anyone in education goes through. I feel it in my own role as an instructional technology trainer even when I'm not in a classroom, but working with teachers.
With a new school year starting in August it is similar to a new calendar year. We are full of ideas and visions of what we hope to accomplish. We all make our "new school year resolutions". Successes happen but without reflection and celebration they may go unnoticed by others and ourselves. Roadblocks that stop some goals make us look back during the disillusionment stage and feel the disappointment that we aren't where we want to be yet. If actions are not planned and put in place towards these resolutions, they may not take hold.
A favorite phase of mine in the graphic above is the rejuvenation stage of the year. Relationships have been built, gains have been made, and new ideas can be attempted. It is a time of year that I see teachers more willing to take risks and try new ways of teaching students.
I challenge myself and others in education to push that rejuvenation stage earlier in the year, even working to wipe out the low stages of attitude happening each year. Students can feel those phases coming through their teacher.
In my son, Chase's first grade class, the teacher amazed me during the month of December. It is a very hard time of year as personal lives are hectic, school lives are packed with holiday events, and students are a little more stir crazy. His teacher built in a number of engaging activities that I questioned if she was slightly crazy to bring that on for herself. She worked in STEM activities she had never tried as part of a class she is taking, she joined a Skype call from a local museum to share about the holiday traditions around the world, and had a class "Elf on the Shelf" that she worked into classroom activities. The elf was a nightly discussion with my son Chase. He could not wait to get to school each day to see where "Winter" the elf was that day. Much to his surprise, one day Winter was hiding in Chase's desk. She added memorable experiences to their learning.
Similar to my own resolution to build relationships in my life by adding in more activities of joy, a teacher can find value in injecting new activities that will bring joy to learning. This can push them through the low feelings students and teachers may feel midway through the year. Below are a few activities that could add a little spark to the new year as students come back from the holiday break:
Relationship Resolutions: be a better listener, stop gossiping, spend more time with familySkype in the Classroom.
It might seem a trivial to add more fun into my life as an action towards my goal of making relationships stronger. Teachers may feel there is too much content to cover to add in new ideas that may rejuvenate their teaching and add excitement to their lesson. However, I think everyone could find life a bit more joyful if we made some efforts in this area and at the same time, build stronger relationships with those we involve. Don't we all need a bit more "joie de vivre"? I know this feels like a resolution that will add value to my life, I look forward to keeping, and it doesn't feel like work.
Mother, wife, teacher, learner, information seeker, outdoor lover, & I guess now a novice blogger.