First, a test (choose the answer that best fits your individual circumstances):
“In 2015, I’m going to ______.”
A. Lose weight
B. Quit smoking
C. Save money
D. Go on that trip we’ve always talked about
E. Probably not do anything I want to do and make the same resolution(s) in 2016.
Americans are a pretty optimistic lot, particularly at the end of December/beginning of January. Our motivation to be nicer human beings and to tackle big, audacious projects spikes. We’re finally going to do that thing we’ve always said we would do. Then, much like the morning after a wild night on the town, it’s as if we wake up completely wondering who that person was that inhabited our body and why in the world we ever decided to ________. There’s a big, glaring problem with the way we approach our resolutions: They’re far too idealistic and lack specificity to the point we can never really know whether or not we actually accomplished what we set out to do.
I think our approach to education is eerily similar. We say things like “reach every child” and “differentiate our lessons,” but in practice, as soon as we say these things, we end up doing the equivalent of eating a dozen donuts while binge-watching House of Cards. Or, perhaps worse, we burn ourselves out trying to accomplish the goal in the first months of trying. Ever been to a gym in March or April? Ghost town. The goal is declared “unattainable” or relegated to the category of “just another edu-fad” and we go about business as usual.
In 2014, I decided to change my personal approach to resolutions. I made exactly one: run 1000 miles by the end of the year. What makes this kind of resolution worth sticking to is simple: it requires long-term, sustained effort and commitment. The goal is clear and specific and I know exactly what it will take to get there (putting on my shoes multiples times per week, every week, for 52 weeks). Some quick math told me at the that I needed ~83 miles per month, which I rounded to ~20 miles per week. If I run 4 times per week, that’s 5 miles per run (on average). 5 miles seems a lot more attainable than 1000. I can do 5 miles. I wasn’t sure if I could do 1000.
What do you want to see change in education? In your classroom? In your professional habits? Do you want to connect with more people via social media like Twitter? Try setting a goal like “tweet 10 times per week and participate in 1 Twitter-chat per month.” Do you want to see a change in the way legislators view education? Set a goal to write each of your representatives and senators at least once per month. Or, if you can, schedule meetings with them or their staff. Do you want to incorporate “more technology” in your instruction? Find 9 or 10 tech tools and commit to trying one per month, every month.
Resolutions aren’t about these idealistic goals that you have no intention of keeping. It’s about behavior change. It’s about completely altering the way you choose to make a difference and then making the monthly, weekly, or daily decisions to act. What good is it to lose 15 pounds if you gain 16 afterwards?
Oh, and in case you were wondering how my commitment turned out, by the end of this month, I will have better than 1100 miles on the year. I didn’t always want to go for a run, but I never regretted a single mile as it brought me closer and closer to my goal.
What will you change? What are your 2015 edu-resolutions? What specific steps will you take next year to accomplish them? Leave them in the comments so we can motivate and encourage each other!
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