If you're anything like me, the holidays are always high on the list of days to be enthusiastic and joyful. It's an exciting time to reflect on the past year, take a breath, and allow us to ponder the future in a meaningful, positive way. While most of us wait until the New Year to start building new habits or breaking old ones, I thought it might be helpful to get us thinking before 2022 is upon us.
What comes to mind professionally and personally as you look back on this past year? Even though we will all have different experiences, many similarities will exist, especially if you're in the field of education. Most likely, it's been a whirlwind of emotions. From being virtual, in-person, or all of the above. These challenges leave us wondering the size and scope of the next hurdle to be cleared. Even with the happiness of a new beginning when school started in the Fall, there have been unique stressors. I'll be the first to admit that even after being in the field for over three decades, many students seem "off" on how they learn and socialize. While I've never given up hope for the betterment of teaching and learning, it seems clear that we all need to adjust in some form or another.
For me, the first step will be a renewed focus on believing and stressing that all kids can improve. Even though we tend to think this, now it's more necessary than ever. Having collegial discussions, both in-person and in the realm of social media, has provided us with a genuine, wake-up call to action. We've talked about the value of reminding students that what they are capable of matters. Luckily, our roles in education don't dictate the spreading of this message. We can all make this happen!
I've always thought of myself as a relationship-style educator/leader. I’d like to think it’s been a hallmark and point of pride that I carry each day. Even so, I'll be making a renewed effort to build stronger, more meaningful connections with students, their families, and those colleagues around me. With that said, these first few months have been so hectic that it sometimes feels challenging to say, "good morning," when we have to keep pushing forward when a million tasks come our way. When I had a few colleagues read this, I was laughing during their repeated head nodding! But just as in step one, we can make these positive changes if we start gradually and with a simple plan of action. We agreed that: greeting students at the door, saying "hello," telling staff how much they matter, and doing other little things to make them feel welcome were easy starting points.
Lastly, an impactful part of creating lasting change is being aware of the current issues in schools and education as a whole. As a general group, educators tend to be their own worst critics. We can acknowledge things we'd like to change, but also recognize that what we do daily makes the world a better place. That isn't an opinion but validated by the thousands of students who plan on entering the education field. Just as in any profession, there will always be people who focus on all that seems problematic with education. Instead of bashing those folks, let's bring each other up and realize that education isn't perfect.
Along with inspiring others, we should continually improve how we teach and lead. That's always been the case and will be 100 years from now. Reflecting on our practice is an essential part of growth. Remember again, that part of this process is about the meaningful differences we've made for students and families.
Now that we've knocked out the professional part, I'd like to focus on a few personal growth strategies. Being a wellness educator, I believe there is a deep connection to our personal and professional lives. I've mentioned to many educators, leaders, and even students, "a healthy mind, body, spirit, and voice creates an atmosphere of hope." When we feel good about ourselves, it directly influences other aspects of our life.
When it comes to setting and achieving goals, I'm no stranger to many challenges that people face each day. Getting started and making your way through various aspects of goal setting can seem daunting. These three tools/tricks can make things more manageable and even fun.
While it’s never mandatory to have a partner or group of people working towards a goal together, the companionship, competitive spirit, and willingness to stick it out are greatly enhanced when others are involved. Having a buddy or group to push me, motivates me when I've competed or trained for events. There is an added benefit that when I've felt a little bit lazy, knowing others are counting on me forced me (in a good way) to stay on task. Success with others becomes a no-brainer if you think about riding apps, diet groups, and other ways to connect with like-minded people.
Please start slow! Pretend you're about to get into a pool. You have three options: jump right in - ease your way in - dip your toes in. Which would you choose? Sure, you might jump in and deal with being freezing, with the hopes you'll get used to it. You could dip the toes in and get a slight sense of the water. Or ease in slowly as your body adjusts. Jumping in too quickly often leads to stopping just as fast when things get tough. Just dipping the toes in isn't usually enough to keep you going. But easing into the water is the best of both worlds. You're not too shocked by the cold, but you still get to go at an attainable pace. Yes, it's a silly analogy! The point is simple. Slow and steady is almost always better than too fast, too soon.
The last tip(s) on personal goal setting is to think deeply about how important it is to achieve your goal and consider all you have going on in your life. That sounds simplistic. It is, but frequently not addressed. Somebody might say, "I need to get in shape!" While that may be true to the person, they might not internalize how important it is or what it will take for that to happen.
As with any of the other writings I've done, I hope you can take one tip and use it in your life. It doesn't matter whether it is on a personal or professional level. If you're feeling stuck or simply need help, please reach out. I'd be more than happy to guide you in the right direction or listen to your concerns. Keep pushing forward!
About the Author
I’ve been a Health and Physical Education Teacher/Coach/Trainer for 30+ years. I enjoy all types of fitness, writing, speaking, and spending time with my family! Stay positive, stay happy, stay well!