In the theme of closing out the year, I've taken up a unintentional tradition since 2014 - writing a blog post to mark the end of the year. I decided to sift through my previous attempts over the last five years to see how I had done over the years in looking back on the year but also to see if anything I had resolved to do had managed to, as they say, stick.
In 2014, I wrote a post titled, "2014 Wasn't That Bad, Right?". In it I reflect on the wholesale change I experienced from working in a $40,000 a year job full of PTSD to returning to finish the degree I started in 2001 when I graduated high school. I resolved to continue ti work on being a better person as I worked trough the changes needed.
In 2015 I wrote, "2015 Wasn't Actually Too Terrible, Right?". I think I was in a right pessimistic mood as I declared that the idea of a New Year and the resolutions were a bunch of bunk that would burn off like chaff and it was pointless to spend all this time making lists and checking them and whatever else people did.
In 2016 I wrote, "Into The Mystic" and I had taken the year to settle my pessimism into a more hopeful tune as I finished my middle school field experience and looked expectantly into the future of working in a high school in the same capacity. I spent much of my blog entry reflecting on what I had learned - and how much I still had to learn. As I read back on what I wrote, I realized how the experience of being in middle school with students had started to shape my paradigm in dramatic fashion.
In 2017, I found inspiration from Olivia Van Ledtje and her blog entry titled, #TheGiftofSimple“, in which she used words to reflect on her past, present, and future. The words I chose for my entry were, Learner, Growth, Grit, and Refine. Reflecting on my 2019, I think these words are absolutely applicable two years later. It's interesting to read through how I described each word in my attempt to process through the year. I would certainly use this reflection tool within my classrooms.
2018, I took a deeper and longer examination of my year in a fashion that surprises me today. I wrote, "The End and The Begin". I made several numbered goals for the first time and that was my first mistake. I've long labored against the idea of making lists and checklists for resolutions. Many opinions vary on this, but many suggest when making resolutions you need to do more habit based modes. Here's my list from 2018 -
First, disconnect from social media. My 2019 is going to be full of me deleting Facebook from my phone and limiting my use of twitter to certain times of the day – same with Instagram, Snapchat, and whatever other insane life and time suck applications that are on my phone. I need to take a stand and a stake in what my attention is paid to – and refocus it with extreme prejudice. Second – read more. I failed this year to read for pleasure and part of that was I buried in my first year teaching world. And mind you, I’m still buried but I can carve time to read. The first action on this list will help me get into books more. Third – find the joy in life. I feel like we see all the awful things in the world – and there’s no doubt that they are awful and that we should stand against them, fight the darkness, and take a stand. But we cannot fight in an unending fashion. We must find joy. We must find happiness. We must find reasons to smile, to laugh, and to enjoy the good and great moments – without it 2019 is going to be a very hard year. The End and The Begin
I failed that first one massively. The second one didn't fare too well either. In the third goal, I managed to do some good work. I found joy, smiles, laughter, and enjoying good and great moments. I made new friends, found a new community to be a part of, and renewed my swimming and biking time enough to push me to hunger for doing more of that in 2020.
Into 2020 and Beyond
2019 was my first full year of teaching and all the trials and tribulations that follow with that. I spent the first half of the year in the latter half of my first year teaching - celebrating with a renewal and finishing the year in May with my first ever group of 6th graders. There is no real way to describe the joy and sadness that rests in you when you say goodbye to the kids you just spent a whole school year with - and will see passing in the hallway in the future.
I started my second year in the latter half of 2019 and was introduced to a new group of 6th grade students with entirely different personalities. It was a different experience with this group, but a rewarding one will continue into the first half of 2020.
So the question is - what is my course that I will chart in the opening days of 2020? What habits will I seek to renew? What habits will I seek to toss into the fires of Mount Doom? And how will I survive my third year of teaching as it kicks off in August?
I think the simple answer is to humbly serve, practice kindness in everything I do, and seek more than ever before. Pretty pat answer, but as a language arts teacher, I can't let that just slide. I push my students to dig in deeper, so I must do this as well.
Being humble covers a great many sins, I think. As teachers we sometimes find our ego, pride, and arrogance taking over our classroom - the idea that we know it all, and are the only experts on the subject. While I firmly believe we should always be the adult in the room, and the leader in a capacity - we should always seek answers from our students. I do quarter surveys to get their opinion on things. I turn over the classroom at the end of the year to a Genius Hour on steroids project called, "Teach Us Something". Despite those moves, I think I need to shake it up more as I go forward in my career. Seek ways for my students to engage the material in ways that is not me in the front. Find avenues for discovery, comprehension, learning, and growing that isn't always done the same way. Flip the script on some things while keeping other means and mechanisms the same. Taking the time to figure out if it's working and go from there. A humble teacher is not a judging teacher, but a working teacher who is not perfect and seeks to learn each day. A platitude, but not an empty one in my opinion.
Practicing Kindness is something I wrestle with plenty and it extends to my students, and my fellow staff members in the building. Kindness is defined thus,
the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Oxford Dictionary
Within that definition is a lot to unpack. Part of my driving force here is my introduction to the idea of Kindness, Compassion, Mercy, and Grace to my classes (detailed here). It's the axiom of if I ask my students to follow in what I teach - I should probably practice the dang thing plenty for them to see - and for me to keep practicing over and over so the habit becomes an actual practice that's in place. My habit this year is to practice being friendly, generous, and considerate - something I would love the rest of our world to work on too.
I'm going to set my last habit as to seek more than ever before. The world is a big place with lots of people all around from different places, different worlds, different cultures, different ideas, and different books. As a teacher one of the most bandied about terms is, "life long learner", which is something I have subscribed to since I started my degree back in 2014. Now as an actual classroom teacher I need to elevate my game to seeking more literature, more writings, more perspectives, and more knowledge - all in the pursuit of being the best teacher for my students. It is a hard goal, this one, because it requires time to read, listen, watch, consume, and then reflect with once understood. Application of said materials takes time and energy. Yet, I cannot stay in one place as a teacher and educator. I must move forward, press on, and seek the next step in my learning for my students and me.
2020 is here, and with it all the challenges, journeys, and experiences that the year will bring me. I am excited, nervous, and looking to the horizon as I push my vessel into the fast moving current lays ahead. The next 300 plus days promise a whole lot of somethings. What I do with those somethings, that will be up to me.
On wards. Ever on wards. And bring me that horizon.