Christmas is now a past affair and first of January has only vividly asserted itself. This can only mean one thing—the new school year is imminent! Even after decades in the classroom, I still get butterflies in anticipation of the first day of school. The back-to-school season is a perfect time for educators to make New Year’s resolutions.
For starters, every teacher should plan to try a new approach in class. Each year, I seek out one approach I haven’t used before and add it to my repertoire. Think of techniques that are practical, engaging and easy to incorporate into everyday lessons. Single out on one technique for example and make it accessible. In other words, a way to help kids connect with rigorous content rather than run from it. This is especially relevant to risk adverse students, many of whom shy away from what they think will be difficult.
In addition to that, resolve to know your students by name and capability in spite of the overcrowded classrooms. Not all of us are meant to be coaches or advisors, but all of our students perk up when we show interest in their lives and the things that matter to them. You have no idea how deeply you touch their lives when you refer to them by name: there can’t possibly be a better way to build a rapport.
You should also resolve to learn something new because you want to. Search for learning opportunities that can truly fuel your passion and fit your life; where you can learn at your own pace. Some of my favorites are short videos from inspirational practitioners. By adding new skills, micro-credentials and even graduate degrees or certificates to your resume, you can open professional doors.
Even more importantly, resolve to steer students toward useful resources, proper decision making — and help them relax instead of spoon-feeding them. A part from pointing out the-would -be useful resources, also advise your students to start prioritizing. Teenage depression and anxiety is increasing, and we need to teach our students that they don’t need to do it all. Instead, encourage them to relax and have fun; as most teachers know, play can actually increase happiness. Remind parents that kids who have family dinners earn higher grades and are less likely to pursue risky behaviors.
This year, challenge yourself to go beyond the same old classroom resolutions we make to ourselves every year, such as grading tests faster or not waiting until Monday morning to make copies. Better yet, skip the copies and go paperless. Challenge the unwritten rule of the quiet classroom, and set your kids and yourself free by teaching outdoors. Try to connect your contract and administrative goals to the passion you felt during your first years of teaching. Take advantage of your required professional growth and have fun learning something novel. It’s a new year—the sky’s the limit.
The writer is a lecturer at The Adventist University of Central Africa.