Hey hey Teacher Friends!
I've taken a bit of a break from bringing you weekly content on our blog here at Teach On A Mission, and I've been using that time to do some major reflecting and planning. Teach On A Mission is approaching its one year anniversary and I'm super excited to see what year two has in store. In all my reflecting and planning, it got me all in my New Years Resolution vibes and wanting to bring your some good plans and ideas around what reflection and goal setting in your classroom looks like.
In the past few years I have become a huge fan of New Year's. I have some mixed emotions because I normally cry when the bell drops due to the harsh recognition that time is FLYING by and I'm no spring chicken anymore, but I also love the celebration and, mostly, the reflection that comes with a new year and a fresh start approaching.
Most of us recognize that not just a new year, but a new decade is beginning - it is the ultimate fresh start, and with that fresh start lies possibilities, opportunities... a chance. What you want that chance to hold for you is entirely up to you - that's the best part, but also the hardest part in following through... it's all up to you.
As a teacher, the traditional New Years is a bit different for us because, well, it's not really a new year for us - it's smack in the middle of our school year. Being in this middle space makes it difficult to truly reflect on what's effective and what could change when we know that any change we try to implement now will be fought tooth and nail by the booties that sit in the seats of our classroom. And, I don't know about you, but I don't change much about my classroom, and when I do, it's thoughtful, intentional, and border-line psychotic, methodical.
So, does this mean we, as teachers, don't reap the benefits of reflecting on the year, looking forward to the new year, and setting resolutions or goals that will allow us to make impact and be effective in the classroom?
I hope you feel the resounding NO that I'm quietly shouting right now.
Of course we get to reflect and be intentional looking forward. But HOW we go about doing that in the middle point of our year is super important. We can just willy-nilly make all kinds of goals and changes without considering where we are in our school year, who we're with, and what our end goals are that are approaching quickly (meaning in less than one full year since we're already half way through).
Here's a quick recap on why we shouldn't go all in on HUGE CHANGE New Year's Resolutions in our classrooms...
That's it in a nutshell. So...
Put the reflecting and goal setting on your students simply to get them in the habit of performing both of those very crucial life skills. Let them call the shots on their reflection and goal setting, without much pressure on focusing on school, academics, and such. When you return to break, give them the space to reflect on their year in 2019 - the good, bad, and the ugly - and then give them the safe environment to look to the future and set obtainable goals for their 2020.
It would be so fun if you did a mini-room transformation. Don't run away terrified just yet - what I mean is keep the New Year's Celebration items from any party you're going to for New Years and just have it on tables in your classroom. Maybe have a slide up on the board with a cute and fun "Happy New Year", maybe including your bitmoji. Play some fun music, and call it a day.
The way I like to do this is by encouraging students' creativity with vision boards. Last year, I spent an entire class period with each of my classes allowing them time to brainstorm on goals and create a vision board - given a template of course. They then printed their vision boards and used them as the cover for their binders.
If creating a vision board is something you've never done, I would highly encourage you to give it a try. I made a physically existing one on a small cork board I keep in my office (it holds my vision for more than one year, but I do update it now and again when I reach certain goals), but this year I made a digital one. I made sure to also include a template that I plan to give to you so you can use it for yourself and for your students.
That's right - I've got a free template for you, just for hanging out with me in my little corner of the great wide internet.
Let me explain each aspect of the board and how you can provide some intention for your students in using this board with them (and hopefully you'll take away a thing or two for yourself).
The biggest emphasis on the vision board template is on choosing a word of the year. This is another annual (or even more frequently if that's what fits your fancy) routine I highly encourage everyone, not just teachers to get into the habit of doing. In choosing a word for the year, you cast a vision for your year (so it fits nicely on the vision board, right?!?) rather than on making a strict to do list.
If you help students (and yourself) see some big milestones, events, or decisions they have coming up for this year, and help them to determine how they would like to go into those milestones, events, or decisions, this will help them come to one word. Help them remember that there is NOTHING they can control other than themselves; their attitudes, emotions, perspectives, and ultimately how they respond to outside circumstances and internal debates. What word could they choose to help them approach this new year in a way that will both get them outcomes they would like and give them a sense of pride at the end of the year if this is the word they choose to focus on in each action they take.
Underneath their word, they should take some time to thoughtfully, but also concisely explain their word ,maybe why they chose it, and how it will guide them throughout 2020.
Next, have a discussion with your students about how long-term change is made not through huge action or epiphanies that miraculous bring about big change. It's about the systems and small, daily decisions we make and actions we take that get us to the long-term, larger changes overtime.
This will be difficult for kids to understand, especially teenagers whose underdeveloped frontal lobes make them less than stellar at future planning, but have the conversation anyway. Help them think of examples in their own lives where they failed at bigger goals (or even failed at smaller goals) because they didn't plan out the small steps they would take to help them get there.
In the bottom left of the vision board template, they have space to choose up to three (but I would encourage just one or two) daily habits. These habits should be directly related to long term goals they have, but will impact more than just one area of their lives. They also have some freedom to choose whatever they would like here. They should simply take some time to reflect on what habits would help improve their lives.
These could be as simple as making the bed everyday- starting with that one, small organized space in their room to start the day. It could be to drink more water, or eliminate or limit a drink they normally have on a daily basis. They don't have to get super specific, but specific enough to know if they aren't living up to their expectations. For instance, they don't need to say they will workout EVERYDAY - that's a lot. But they could say they will be active for 30 minutes everyday.
And that leads me to encouraging you to monitor these daily habits as your students determine what they will be. Some students will have a smidge overconfidence here and choose to workout for an hour everyday, or study every evening for 3 hours. Whoa nelly - help them pull back the reigns a bit here and see how they are setting themselves up for failure and burn out - and fast.
Help them come to smaller, seemingly minuscule daily actions. Like, filling out their planner everyday. Drinking a glass of water as soon as they wake up. Reading for 10 minutes everyday. Watching no more than one hour of TV each day, or heaven forbid limiting their screen time on their phones.
It wouldn't be New Years if you didn't project long term and make one bigger goal. Although I don't think that should be the focus of goal setting in the classroom, it can be helpful to do some vision casting here.
Have students choose just ONE. No more than that. And it doesn't have to be in any particular area. I would even encourage you to stress to your students to make a resolution for a personal goal rather than an academic one - like grades or testing.
Finally, students have some creative space to add images or any other visuals that will help them make their board more, well, visual. They can add their own images or any stock images that signals to them what they visualize for the year - no rules really, just make it aesthetically stimulating and in tune with your vision for the year. Simple as that.
I made my own vision board and included it in the template so you have an example board to work with. Feel free to not use it though as showing examples often times give students tunnel vision on what they can do with their own boards.
Creating a vision board is a simple and fun process, however it is taking a day away from your content, so reiterating and fully understanding the point behind all this is crucial.
There is a TON of emphasis on data in education today - love it or hate, it's there and I doubt it's going away anytime soon. I'm not sharing anything new here amongst teachers... we get it. However, data conversations are almost always involving teachers and very rarely involve the ones who the data is about - the students.
Student reflection can be an integral part of any classroom, but it doesn't become a significant and effective aspect of the classroom right off the bat. It takes a lot of intention, monitoring and routine.
That's where a vision board comes in. Students simply thinking and having conversations about their goals makes reflection and metacognition a more natural part of your classroom culture. So when you have more intentional lessons focused on performance data, students already feel safe discussing their strengths and weaknesses. They've already had practice in the skill of intentional reflection and goal setting.
These more intentional conversations about performance where students are doing the reflecting is a topic that I plan to expand upon in 2020. In fact, we've got lots of plans here at Teach On A Mission on how we can bring value to you, your students, and your teaching practice as a whole. To give you a glimpse of a little bit of our vision, here are some things we've got coming up...
Wow - I see that list and get super excited, but also a bit nervous... but, hey, calling your shot should always make you nervous. If it doesn't, it's not a big enough shot.
So how about that template?!? Click this image to get it sent to your inbox.
In the template, I've shared with you my vision board, and I would love to see yours! Please find me on Instagram or Facebook and tag me in a post sharing your vision board... I can't WAIT to see them! What would be even cooler is if you some how shared how it went in your classroom when you do this activity.
At last, I hope that this New Year brings you feelings of rejuvenation; that awesome feeling knowing where you've been but more so where you have the potential to go, whether that's in your classroom, career, personal life, relationships, health and mindfulness goals, etc. I wish you all the best with the start of 2020.
Until next time,