Looking ahead to the new year often involves taking stock of where we’re at and how we might improve – as people, and as teachers. Drawing my inspiration from the National Board’s Five Core Propositions, I offer the following suggestions for resolutions that I think would apply broadly to my teaching peers. Rest assured, these are all areas I’m working on myself, too!
Resolution 1: Make a renewed effort to connect with students personally. Think of the students you know the least well, and make a point of engaging with them early in the new year. See what you can learn about your students that will help them engage with you and your curriculum.
Resolution 2: Challenge yourself to learn something new about your subject or teaching every week. That might mean reading an extra article now and then from the professional literature available online, or making more time to read journals and books that are languishing in the “get-around-to-this-eventually” corner of your desk, classroom or office. Engage with your peers in school or online to find out what learning they’re engaged in.
Resolution 3: Note that this core proposition doesn’t mention grading. Try to separate feedback from grading a bit more this year. Explore ways to grade less and respond more. Consider a move away from points and averages and towards other grading methods, anything that gets you and your students more focused on learning and less on grading.
Resolution 4: Think about your daily, weekly, or monthly routines: where are the regular opportunities for analysis and reflection that should accompany your work? If you have these opportunities regularly in your work, see what you can do to enrich the experience, to make it more effective. If you don’t have these opportunities regularly at work, consider the potential of an online personal learning network. You should also speak up within your department, grade level, school, district, and teachers association, to advocate for improved collaboration and shared learning.
Resolution 5: Add one new way that you work with your learning community this year. Hopefully your peers are already part of that learning community (and if not, start there, borrowing a bit from Resolution 4). This year, find one new way to connect: take on a new role in your teachers association; engage with parents in a sustained type of outreach or collaboration; invite community members to participate more in the classroom and in the life of the school; reach out to school board members and other policy makers to advocate for your school community and on your students’ behalf; engage more deeply with your professional organizations by joining committees, writing or presenting.
Make 2014 the best year of your teaching career – and I’ll try to do the same!