With the new semester and new school year starting, it offers us the opportunity to have a new take on New Year’s resolutions. Here are my twelve. Simply because there are twelve months in a year. It’s another shot at trying to make those resolutions work.
I hate New Year’s resolutions, because for me, they usually amount to nothing. But I do feel I achieve more if I set myself goals over an academic year or a school year. The focus of this blog is to highlight twelve areas that could help with setting goals for the year. Some are stories, some are examples, and some are just observations, but I hope they trigger a few ideas in you, the reader, and that you come up with your own set of goals that will drive you forward and make the rest of this year and the year to come worthwhile.
1. What’s my vision and mission for the year ahead?
The world has changed a lot over the last 2 years, and many of us might be suffering from change fatigue. But what is the one thing that makes you wake up in the morning and get out of bed? Make that your vision, write it down, and be defined by it. My vision has for a number of years been ‘I inspire others to be the best they can be, and by being inspiring I can be inspired myself.’
2. Become more vulnerable
I recently watched a fantastic Ted talk called The Power of Vulnerability and it again made me aware of how important it is to realise that we cannot block out negative emotions. We need to accept that negative emotions exist, because they allow us to also experience positive emotions. This year I want to make sure that I say sorry first, say I love you first, and through understanding and accepting my own vulnerability, be more empathetic towards others I work with and my family and friends. There will be new colleagues, new students, and new parents, and I want to show this right from the start.
3. Plan a financial future
The last two years have shown us how fragile lots of us are financially. Planning for a financial future is important, but often we try to calculate what we need for retirement and become discouraged. And then, instead of starting with a small amount per month, we put it off, and then we don’t start. For many around the world, coming out of lockdowns, and perhaps being in a situation where they don’t have work, planning for a financial future can seem very low on the priority list. Still have a plan, because when your situation changes, you want to have a plan. My personal plan for this year is to invest in ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds) and I personally think other than a pension fund, they are a good investment vehicle for teachers. It is the start of the semester, and it could also be the start of a better financial future.
4. Be a student
Teachers are generally remarkably good at professional development. That was most evident in how effectively the transition to online classes happened, and then the massive learning curve that followed it. The support we provided each other with, the webinars, videos, articles, blogs and everything that was produced in record time shows the importance of continuously learning. I am currently enrolled in a course that will probably take me another two or three years to complete, but you don’t have to be enrolled in a formal course to continue being a student. Are you teaching a new level, new age group, or new textbook? Do you have a SEND student in your class and have little experience dealing with SEND? What learning is involved with that? It is a great opportunity to be a student and a teacher at the same time.
5. Ensure I am in an environment I am happy in
As teachers, growing and job satisfaction are important. Find an environment in which you are happy, and if you are not happy, think about how it affects your mental health and your relationships with family and friends. And if the answer is negatively, leave.
However, we can also play a role in the culture of an organisation we work for, and it is easier to change something from the inside than the outside. So, for this semester, accept responsibility for the company culture where you work, and ensure that the environment is pleasant and supportive for others. If you then have to leave, you have gained experience in how to work towards an inclusive, respecting environment and you can replicate that in your new place of work.
6. Do something that scares me
It says it all. What are you afraid of doing? Smoking less? Drinking less coffee? Skydiving? Teaching IELTS? Doing a Trinity Diploma, a DELTA or an MA? Fear is a real emotion, but it should not paralyse us.
7. Focus on building value
The more value I add to the lives of others, the more valuable and valued I feel. I add value to the lives of those I manage and train, and they add value to the lives of the thousands of students the teach. And hopefully, as per my personal vision, inspire them to be the best they can be. I have just started a new Trinity Certificate TESOL, and we will also have a TYLEC and Trinity Diploma starting in the next few months, so this is a great opportunity for me to build value. With the semester starting for many, it could also be a great opportunity to continue doing what the many great teachers around the world do. Continue to focus on building value.
8. Make one person feel special each day
We cannot make everyone around us happy and we cannot make everyone around us feel special. But we can make one person a day feel special, and perhaps even plan how to do that. As a teacher, when I started doing this, I picked one student in every class and made them feel special and then learn something about them. Some of what I learned amazed me, and perhaps by far the most special story was a young girl of around eleven who had long hair. She came to class and her hair was cut really short. I commented on how lovely she looked, and she then told me that she grew her hair long for the purpose of cutting it short. I asked why, and she said to donate it so they can make wigs for children with cancer. I am still not great at noticing when people have cut their hair, but I make a point to make a positive comment and make others feel special when I can.
9. Make more time for family/friends
It is easy to get stuck in a work rut, but with the new semester starting, I can control what I say yes to and what I say no to, and I definitely want to make more time for my wife and my kids this year. Working from home during the pandemic made me realise how little of each other we actually see when they are at school, and I am full steam at work. For many children, the pandemic allowed them to spend much more time with their parents. Let’s see if we can keep that going.
10. Be grateful
I finished my Cambridge examiner training and received my results for my MA on the same day. I was in a really good place. Then my son had an upset stomach and so did my dog. I spent two hours cleaning poop. My wife and I still laugh about it, because she said, ‘At least you are an examiner, and you have an MA.’ I thought about it, and said, ‘Actually, at least I have a child I love and a dog that loves me.’ Be grateful, despite the challenges and difficulties you might face this semester.
11. New experiences
Look for new experiences. Actively seek out new experiences. Start a new hobby. At least be open to new experiences. Work with a new colleague. Make friends with the new employee.
12. Give or volunteer
I once bought a really ugly painting from a disabled street artist. Nobody was buying anything, and he was selling his paintings quite cheaply. I paid double what he was asking and when I came home, through the painting away. My son asked me why. I said because I don’t like it. He said that he meant why did I buy it in the first place and pay double. Is it to make the man feel good? I felt bad about my answer, but I was honest. I said, ‘No, it’s because it makes me feel good.’ Give or volunteer this year, because in the end it makes us feel good about who we are, and it helps makes the world a little more liveable.
Many of the conversations I have had over the last few months have shown a level of fatigue that cannot say I have seen before. People have not seen loved ones in a very long time, there is a lot of uncertainty in the world, and it weighs us down.
I hope some of the twelve ‘goals’ above triggers something that excites you about life again, makes you come up with a plan to achieve something, and spurs you into action. There are few things worse than waking up in the morning and wishing you could just stay in bed, and there are few things better than the excitement of success. May the start of the new school year be the start of successful year for all teachers, trainers, managers, writers, and everyone involved in ELT globally.
We’d love to hear about what your list of twelve is and how you plan to put it into action, or how you get on with Gerhard’s suggestions. Do let us know in the comments below or via Pavilion ELT’s social media: Facebook or Twitter.