by Jennifer Rita Nichols, Teacher
When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, we all hear about the typical weight/health/finance related promises we make to ourselves – but why not use this yearly changeover to make some classroom promises instead? We can all use some new goals, and our students will be the ones benefiting from the changes with us. Win-win, I’d say!
The modern teacher juggles a dynamic sets of roles and tasks, from friend, coach, and leader, to agent of literacy, technology pioneer, and stoker of curiosity. To help you get started on your personal list of classroom resolutions and goals, here are five great ideas that can be implemented in any level of class.
I will experiment with technology that scares me.
This is your chance to try some new things with your students. ‘New Tech’ doesn’t necessarily refer to a completely different piece of technology being used each week, but rather to a commitment to try new ways of using tech in your teaching.
Whether you’re using old technology in new ways, or new technology in traditional ways, challenge yourself to do something “scary”–nothing literally terrifying, but rather an app or method of student access to content or digital communities that forces you to learn new things.
Obviously, use your best judgment here. The idea is not to stir up trouble or get yourself fired, but rather to push yourself out of your comfort zone as you continue to modernize and refine your craft for 2014.
I will consistently try new approaches to learning.
For example, No-Plan Friday.
Don’t confuse ‘no plan’ with ‘no planning’! ‘No plan’ teaching is a great way to get students excited for a lesson each week. You still need to plan the objectives of the lesson, but you can leave the activity unplanned. Start the lesson with a discussion about the goals and objectives you want students to be working towards that day. Then, see where the conversation leads you!
Allow students to share their creativity by working on open-ended and mostly unstructured work. This can really help to target different learning types, as each student can choose what works best for them. Some may work in small groups, while others choose to work alone. At the end, each student or group should share their creation with the class. This makes for interesting presentations as the class is treated to a variety of skits, stories, newscast videos, or informational posters. The sky (and student imagination) should be the limit!
Commit yourself to building stronger relationships with your students. Make a point of speaking with at least one student each day about something completely unrelated to classwork or school activities.
Keep track of who you speak with to make sure that you get around to everyone before starting over again. Some students seek out their teachers to share stories and build bonds, but this resolution can certainly help you to show all your students that they are important and valued members of your classroom community. Don’t forget to share some stories about yourself as well!
- I will create a system that honors students.
One idea? An end of the month Ceremony.
The last school day of each month is a great time to highlight the successes of your class and students. Put some time aside to acknowledge the students that have been working well, putting in good effort, or helping their community.
Highlighting personal successes can go a long way as well – if you know a student advanced his level in karate, mention it to the class! If a student deserves to be thanked for something, do so! Allow students to raise their and to give thanks to others as well (the impact of “thanks for letting me play with you at recess” shouldn’t be underestimated). Allowing a bit of time to celebrate successes and give special thanks can only add glue to the bonds students forge with you and with each other.
- I will think literacy backwards.
Literacy Monday is one way to try this.
In Literacy Monday, challenge students to read something new each weekend, and take up the challenge yourself! This might be a great time for you to catch up on new trends in your field by committing to read at least one new article each week. Students can choose from stories or articles related to their personal interests. It’s important to let your students choose what they read (even if it means reading walkthoughs of video games each week), as the goal is to help them recognize the benefits of literacy in their personal lives.
Each Monday, open a discussion where students can share some information about what they read. You, as the teacher, can even start things off by sharing what you learned in your article. I have found that older students tend to be especially interested in discussing new trends in education. You may just find inspiration for a project that the class can be very excited about completing!
There are countless more ideas for resolutions that can make your classroom an even better pace than it already is. Please share some of your own ideas with other readers by leaving a comment below! You never know what ideas will resonate with a fellow teacher.
Oh, and I’d like to wish a happy and safe New Year’s to you and to your students!
Image attribution flickr user bluekdesign and woodleywonderworks; 5 Resolutions To Modernize Your Teaching For 2014