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A Teacher's New Year - 8 reflection ideas to move forward with positivity


Happy New Year, teacher, new year sparklers

The turning of a year is always a gentle reminder in the practice of self-reflection. And with teaching being at the core of who I am, I spend a good amount of time reflecting on the year passed and contemplating what I can do for the year ahead.


In the process of reflecting and planning, I never want it to be a chore, an emotional burden or just one more thing I need to think about; quite the opposite actually.


Here, I share with you, eight key reflection points that I contemplate, some more important than others. Be sure to read to the end for tips on how to sustain your resolutions and intentions beyond the month of January.


#1 What Went Well

I list (or sketch) some of the best moments from the past year. Usually this includes support from my colleagues, times when I felt successful and acknowledged it and many moments of laughter with my students - but if I keep digging, there's much more. It's far too easy to forget how good we might have it when we face so many challenges each day.

What Went Well
#2 What Could Have Been Better

Now let's balance the positivity with reality, teacher life usually isn't all sunshine and rainbows. However, rather than just listing the things that were awful and I wish could be erased from my life, I frame it as what could have been better. And maybe, just maybe, what that better would be. Here's a snapshot of what could have been better for me.

My team planning meetings could have been better. Challenges came from divergent ideas, unclear goals and practices along with confusion in the curriculum. I could make a small yet positive change by being a better listener during meetings.

#3 Identifying Support
Seriously... The dream team

Listing (if there are enough to list) coworkers who are my strength when I lose my own. I am lucky enough to have my principal, plus three more teachers who I can always go to, lean on and find mentorship with. Interestingly enough, not all of my friends at work are the same as my support system. Supportive colleagues are different from the lunch period chat in the staff room.


Knowing who these people are and making sure to spend my time with those who inspire and support me has a profound impact on my life.


#4 Gratitude

I struggle with expressing gratitude - from the people in my life to all the things they provide for and give to me. Gratitude decreases negativity and is associated with greater happiness. Who can say no to that?!?!

gratitude, gratitude journal, gratitude reflection, new years resolution, new years intentions, teacher reflection, teacher self-care
A gratitude sketchnote

Simple gratitude practices can be simply thinking of two or three things you are grateful for (even better to do this daily), make sketchnotes to identify a few things you are grateful for or start a gratitude journal / sticky note wall.


#5 Planning for Professional Development

Sometimes, when thinking of what could have gone better, I can see areas where professional development might support me. I love a bit of PD and honestly wish I had the time and energy to keep it going all year long. But when looking at my calendar - I have got to see what fits.


I'm a big fan of planning and staying organized (or at least trying to) so planners and calendars are critical. Check out this free 2023 calendar download to print and use in your classroom! And I've made a digital planner for those of us who have an addiction to planning on your iPads.


#6 Sources of Happiness

This cannot be overlooked! And while I LOVE being a teacher and LOVE my teaching team, not being at school also brings me happiness. My home, my family, the city I live in and the clean air I breathe! I am more than a teacher and all the things in life that bring me joy deserve a moment of reflection and honor.


#7 Then and Now

I have a friend from way back when in the Peace Corps. Whenever we have the chance to meet up, she asks me about my five year plan. Every time, without fail!

Peace corps, Tanzania, Arusha, five year plan
Sara and I having a pedi in Arusha, Tanzania

Each January, she is with me in spirit. I usually can't remember last year's five year plan but I can still think about where I was five years ago and then look again at myself now. I flip through photos and recall where I was teaching and what my interest areas were. I think about how my long term goals are progressing or changing, regardless if it has been three, five or even seven years.


Year after year, I'm never where I imagined myself to be and have consistently done more than I ever thought possible in both my personal and professional life.


I dare you to have a go at this. You might surprise yourself! 😉 


#8 Balance

There were clearly moments of chaos for me in the past year and there were also times that I seemed to handle life, work and all its chaos with ease. I find it helpful to think about why it was this way? What changed between being able to manage it all and then letting my work tear my life up?


I recently attended a workshop with Rachel Suery and was encouraged to look at eight different elements in my life, then give each a stress value. After a few minutes sitting with my completed graph, I noticed a clear pattern - what I perceive to have control over and what I do not. I'm not expert in mental health or wellbeing but I'm pretty sure that controlling what I can and making the best of what I can't control has a direct link to finding some balance in my life. For example:

  • I cannot control my class register or the number of learning and language needs in my class each year. I can control how I deliver my lessons, differentiation moves and learning and assessment modifications for them.

  • I cannot control the rheumatoid arthritis in my genes, but I can control parts of it - such as choosing doctors who listen to me, going to my medical appointments, avoiding trigger foods, exercising regularly.

 

Now that I feel balanced and well-reflected, how can I sustain this throughout the year?


Organization is one of those stressor elements for me, so keeping my time, responsibilities and lessons in order is a high priority. I am an iPad kind of teacher, so I use my clickable teacher planner. I can easily write out my lesson plans with my pencil and use the embedded links to navigate months, class lists, meeting notes and student information.



One reason I try not to think of "resolutions" for each new year is that the moment I miss a beat, it's far too easy to give up. But this is the exact opposite of what each of us wants and also counterproductive when thinking about improving our lives, professions and understanding of self-care. Therefore I have shifted from resolutions to intentions. Each morning, with coffee in hand and a few minutes of quiet time, I muse over how my intention might look for me today.


In order to sustain this throughout the coming year, I pace myself and make a focus for each month. I spend four weeks making it a habit or disposition before moving on to something new.


This January, I'm focusing on prioritizing personal space. Being a teacher seems to be a job for extroverts, leaving me feeling depleted every day - the struggle is real for introverts. My morning intention time is for remembering to take a short, quiet walk during lunch, take the earlier train which is less crowded or to consider doing my planning in the library.


Wishing you a beautifully reflective new year and calmness and balance in the months ahead.


Check out these other creative classroom resources I have that will surely set your classroom up for a new year:


Real Life Classroom Resources

Happy teaching and learning!

💛 Sativa


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