I just love the start of a new academic school year, don't you? The school has been buffed and polished and a true sense of a new beginning is in the air! Much like making "new year" pledges on January 1, teachers tend to make resolutions to do things differently or try something new but sadly, by the end of the third week of school, the hopes and plans for change dissolve and the old routine resumes. I've certainly experienced this phenomenon and I've witnessed it far too many times.
From my observations, I've drawn some conclusions on why our very best intentions turn sour. When it comes to making a new school year resolution, sometimes:
Our resolutions (goals) are too ambiguous. Let's look at John Q. Teacher who recently overheard two teachers talking about how wonderful interactive notebooks are in their classrooms. John wants to add an interactive notebook piece to his history class, but that's about the scope of his goal. He has not researched, discussed, or planned how he was going to implement the notebook in his subject. On the first day of school, he told students to bring a 70 page spiral bound notebook to class and at the next class meeting started the implementation. Most students didn't have the notebook and he had to wait a few days to get started. When he "jumped in" and gave assignments for students to include in the notebook, the assignments had no regularity, no cohesive structure, and certainly no grading parameters. He soon realized he wasn't ready and abandoned the project with no fanfare. It just disappeared.
Our resolutions (goals) are too overwhelming. Instead of taking time and setting up a notebook before class met, Mr. Teacher was "making it up" as he went along. When he ran out of ideas, the notebook was used less and less. Students wanted to use the notebook, but he was overwhelmed at the amount of work the notebook was causing during his planning time. He realized creating an interactive notebook had many parts to it with "value-added" being at the top of the list! Because he was so stunned at the enormity of it all and wasn't sure what the students were getting from it, he just stopped.
Our resolutions (goals) require the right mindset. Changing course within the classroom like using an interactive notebook requires determination to see the change through. Wanting it and doing it are two different things. The sad part is that by abandoning the notebook implementation, John Q. Teacher modeled the wrong thing to his students. Before he began the endeavor, Mr. Teacher should have started small using the notebook once a week with set parameters of usage. He should have modeled his expectations of how to use the notebook because that would have helped him stay focused on the goal.
With school barely started or just around the corner, plan (not just wish) to reach your goals for the new school year. Forget the failures of the past, and approach this year with a clean slate! If you need help on goal planning, check out the SMART goal system. It helps in all aspects of life, not just your professional one. Good luck!
Alison Thetford, M.Ed