Here we are just a few weeks into another new school year. By now, everyone is back in the swing of things with the new routines of their classes and schedules. Maybe I’m crazy, but I’ve always thought the beginning of the school year was somewhat like New Year’s Day. The beginning of the school year, like January 1st, is a chance for a fresh start.
What do many people do when a new year begins? They make New Year’s resolutions, right? Do you ever make Beginning Of the Year (B.O.Y) resolutions? Something you can do differently than last year? Something that can be better? Something that can help you or your students grow? I don’t know about you, but the big problem I have is making a short list of resolutions, then letting life get in the way without making them stick.
My mother-in-law is always telling me about things “they say.” Something like “You know, they say it takes trying something new for 21 days to make it a habit.” Now, I’ve never figured out who “they” are, but I do believe that as educators, we should always be looking to improve in our craft. To fully adopt those habits takes time and persistence. Maybe it’s 21 days. Maybe it’s longer.
In our increasingly digital learning environments, I think this is mission critical. Doesn't the first few days and weeks of school look different than it did 10, 15 or 20 years ago? In my second year of teaching in 1997, all of the new teachers in my district received the book First Days of School by Harry Wong. Wong’s focus is how the first few days of school set the tone for the success or failure of the school year.
So let’s take Wong’s focus and mash it up with New Year’s resolutions and forming habits. What would that look like in our current digital age classrooms? In his book, Wong is encouraging educators to implement structures and best practices that will transform the learning environment. As educators, we can RESOLVE to create new HABITS that set the tone for SUCCESS.
What can I do?
Here are 3 things to consider…
Reflect on summer professional development - Whether you attended one of the Summer of eLearning conferences, ISTE Conference, or took an online course, there is always a multitude of professional growth opportunities in the summer. My guess is that for whatever you attended, you have notes and tweets that have gone untouched since the event. Don’t feel guilty about that; I think most of us do the same thing. Here’s your chance to reflect on your summer learning! Dig out those notes. Browse through those tweets. Find an idea that excites you. Put it on your whiteboard, or better yet, make it a reminder on your calendar so that you receive constant notifications, and it stays in front of you.
Establish digital learning environments - Whether you are a teacher or administrator, you are creating a positive culture that includes procedures and expectations. In a digital age, we need to ask ourselves the question, “What will digital learning look like in my classroom, school, or district?” Tell students and parents HOW and WHY you are using your Learning Management System...and use it daily. Create structures where students can “show what they know” in creative ways and share their work with the world. Leverage collaborative tools like Google Apps for Education, not only to have students work together, but also to collect feedback from teachers. Check out Alan November’s Twitter hashtag #1st5days for ideas on how other educators put a digital spin on the first days of school.
Don’t go it alone - A friend of mine worked for a company whose mission statement was “Teaching is too important to do alone.” Social media has totally changed the game when it comes to connecting with others. Do you participate in Twitter chats to connect with other educators who are in similar roles as you? Do you follow the blogs of other awesome educators to pilfer ideas for use in your classroom, school or district? If you use Twitter, have a blog or some other form of social media, are you sharing the awesome things happening in your classroom? Take a look at these educational hashtags and educator blogs to get you started.
What do you do?
My resolution is to read at least three books to shape and spark my thinking. Here are the books on my list right now.
You can also check out other book recommendations from the Five-Star Team. It’s never too late to implement one of the suggestions above, or you can even do something different. I saw a quote on the planner of a superintendent I know that said, “The best way to get something done is to begin.”
What have you resolved to do differently, put into practice, or make habit as you’ve started this year?