An English Teacher’s #BetterLateThanNever New Year’s Resolutions

In true Miss G fashion, I am sharing the New Year’s resolutions I promised you with the motto of “better late than never.” 

At this point, I have embraced my Type-B, procrastinating, “organized chaos” personality. My Christmas tree is still up, I have an ungodly, undisclosable number of emails in my inbox, I am passionate about eating lunchables for dinner, and I still write myself reminders on my hand, like some kind of forgetful high-schooler. But I am who I am. My messy, spontaneous, creative approach to life works for me. Also, a messy desk may be a sign of genius, so I’m sticking to that theory. My excuse is that I’ve been so busy implementing my goals that I haven’t had the time to revise and publish this blog post that arbitrarily symbolizes accountability. PRIORITIES, PEOPLE!

Embracing my flaws aside, I am committed to bettering myself in 2018. I’ve been dabbling in self-help books, listening to podcasts on productivity and efficiency, and just generally thinking about how to get MORE out of life. It’s not that I’ve been unhappy or unmotivated. In fact, 2017 was my happiest and most fulfilling year yet. I’m very blessed to do what I love with the people I love in a community that I love, but I know that all this love could be channeled in even more incredible ways. I want to harness my passion and creativity in 2018. I want to challenge myself intellectually. I want to think, read, write, love, and live deeply and purposefully.  Here’s how:

1. BE PRESENT

 

 

Let me preface this resolution by admitting that most, if not all, of my colleagues and students would consider me a happy, positive person who is passionate–obsessed even–with her job calling. And I am. But I am also the first to admit that teaching can absolutely suck the life and soul out of me if I am not careful. I do not say this to complain, but to emphasize the importance of being mindful of my emotions and attitude. At least for me, it’s not always enough to simply “be” a positive teacher; I have to be deliberate about it.  It’s almost as if I am actively waging a war against the Tired, Negative, Stressed Out Teacher Within. Sometimes, I drive to school an extrovert and leave an introvert, so exhausted with fellow humans that I don’t even want to speak to sweet souls who work the Chick-Fil-A drive-thru. Other days, I find myself nodding and “mhmm-ing” through student conversations, trying to genuinely listen, but instead, worrying about the hooligan in the corner who is bouncing off the walls or recalculating the number of items on my to-do list. Heck, I often find myself writing tomorrow’s to-do lists before I am finished with today’s to-do lists. I am always trying to “work today to get ahead for tomorrow,” when really, I just need to live in the now and appreciate the day.

I don’t want to live my life in future tense. I want to be present, emotionally and physically.  I deserve it, and so do my students. It sounds so cliche, but sometimes this is as simple as…

    • Listening to Beyonce and getting my mind in formation on the way to school in the morning!
    • Taking a deep breath after each class period and reminding myself that every 42 minutes, the bell rings to give me a fresh start with a brand new group of students.
    • Taking the time to interact with my students as human beings. This means laughing, smiling, and the occasional random but fun YouTube video, just for “kicks and gigs.” Obviously, as a caring teacher, I do this, but I need to do MORE of it. It’s so easy to get carried away with the demands, data-tracking, accountability, standards, etc. and forget these little things.
    • Expressing my gratitude and doing acts of kindness for others. Research proves this improves your happiness, and it’s also just common sense. I want 2018 to be a year of hand-written thank you cards, “just because” notes, and buying Starbucks for the stranger behind me in the drive-thru.

 

#2: READ MORE

Reading makes me a better teacher and human being. It’s that simple. Research has long proven the effects of reading: mental stimulation (which can slow/prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia), increased intelligence, better memory function, an improved vocabulary, more empathy, and a LONGER life (because I’m trying to teach until the day I die, y’all)…the list goes on. I’ll spare you all the details (or save them for another blog post), but my point is this: Reading is good for my brain AND soul. Exercising my mental muscles and understanding other humans through literature just makes me so happy. Also, no matter what I am reading, even if it’s not education-related, I get so many ideas for teaching. I’ve found that reading is often the catalyst for some of my spontaneous but creative lessons. If I’m not reading, I am doing my own brain–and my students–a disservice, so I am resolving to practice what I preach and read 50 books this year. I plan on reading a healthy combo of professional, YA, and leisure-reading books. (I LOVE suspenseful, psychological thrillers).

Books

My current favorites!

 

 

I just finished reading Write Like This, At the Crossroads of Should and Must, and The Sun is also a Star, and I am working through Writing With Mentors, You are a Badass, and Room. Join me on Goodreads and/or Instagram to learn more about what I am reading, and leave me any great book recommendations in the comments!

 

#3: WRITE MORE.

Just like reading, writing makes me a better teacher. This realization sparked this blog, which I, unfortunately, have not been updating as consistently as I would like. I have been neglecting my own writing for a while, and I am finally noticing the damaging effects of not practicing what I preach/teach. I have half-jokingly told my students that I miss writing the literary analysis essays that I was assigned in college. Although teaching is mentally stimulating and that’s why I LOVE it, I also think that teaching–and inadvertently adopting the teenage vernacular, which is pretty lit, fam–is “dumbing me down.” My brain now thinks in memes, gifs, emojis, and 240-character snippets, instead of articulate sentences.  It’s not my students’ fault; it’s mine. Seriously, writing this simplistic, personal post has taken more time than I care to admit. I guess the “If you don’t use it, you lose it” adage applies to writing skills, too. But I’m also sure muscle memory applies to writing, so if I want my old writing prowess back, I just need to write on! To do so, I am going to focus on 2 specific goals:

  • Blog more. I want to blog at least once a month, if not more. Today’s post marks 2 MONTHS IN A ROW, which is an accomplishment for me. My “Blog” folder in my Google drive currently has 38 docs of ideas, some half-finished drafts, others incoherent ramblings. I am working on a content schedule, but let me know if there’s anything you’d like to see me write! On deck is a post about how I use stations in my secondary ELA classroom! 🙂
  • Model writing alongside my students. I’ve also known this is best practice, and while I do lots of other forms of modeling in the classroom, I have not been writing in front of my students nearly as much as I should. In fact, it’s been essentially nonexistent, except for a few occasions, but reading Write Like This was a wake-up call to start writing with my kiddos A$AP Rocky (There I go again with the adolescent slang). In 2018, I am going to embrace the vulnerability that will come with writing alongside my students. I hope that can show them that writing is not always easy, but it’s always worth it. Perhaps my personal journey to rediscover my voice as a writer will help empower my students, too.

#4: BE MORE BALANCED AND ACCEPT “GOOD ENOUGH.”

My first year of teaching, my life had very little balance. I’d stay after school for hours, work on the weekends, and plan too much on my breaks. Oftentimes, my oh-so-sweet custodian would jokingly tell me to leave, and when that didn’t work, he would bring me food. Once, the superintendent even came in my classroom around 8pm on a Friday night, and told me to “get outta here!” (He was at the school for a concert or some other school activity). Fast forward to now, year 4. I’ve definitely improved since then, especially in 2017, when I took on the challenge of coaching soccer, which inevitably took time away from my teaching. This forced me to reevaluate how I was spending my time and prioritize better. Quite honestly, sometimes I had to accept simply doing the “bare minimum” to survive as a teacher during soccer season. This was incredibly difficult for me, a semi-perfectionist who can spend hours designing lessons to make them as engaging as possible. Since then, I have learned that it’s okay to close your computer and shut your brain off when your lesson for the next day is “good enough.” As a teacher, I often care too much and set impossibly high standards for myself. Sometimes, doing a little bit less will actually help me do a lot more to restore the balance lacking in my life and renew the energy that I need to make an impact on the 120 students in my classroom each day. In 2018, I am giving myself the permission to say “no” more often, accept “good enough,” and do a little less to give myself and my students more.

 

#5 TRAVEL MORE.

In the fall of 2016, I embarked on my first-ever cross-country road-trip, partially inspired by one of my favorite novels, Into the Wild. That first trip was just the spark, and the year that followed was my most adventurous, transcendent year yet. In 2017, I hiked over 13 miles in the Grand Canyon and barely made it back up before dark, camped out in a 50mph sandstorm in Death Valley and woke up to sand in every crevice of my body, dangled my legs over the edge of Horseshoe Bend, slid down a natural waterslide in a 44-degree creek running through a canyon, soaked in hot springs alongside the Colorado River and Rocky Mountains, and more. 2017 was the first year that I traded in travel for school work on my 2-week spring and fall breaks. I did not plan. I did not stress. I did not worry about being productive or efficient. I did not think of tomorrow before today. I lived. The freedom of an open road, a map of infinite destinations, no specific plans, and lots of spontaneous stops was ineffable.  I don’t want to call it wanderlust because that’s cliche, but all I know is that my soul is no longer satisfied when stationary; it now craves movement and exploration.

Death Valley 1

Sand dunes at Death Valley National Park

 

 

See how this blog post is #3 in action? I told you, I was just so busy being present (#1), reading more (#2), and planning my road trips (#5) that I told myself that a January 19th New Year’s blog post was “good enough” (#4).

What are your resolutions? I would love to hear about them in the comments!

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4 Comments

  1. Michelle
    January 20, 2018 / 9:56 pm

    This is some profound stuff. As teachers, we give so much of ourselves and take on so much that it becomes easy to get sucked into a spiral. I hope all of our goals are a reality in 2018!

  2. January 20, 2018 / 11:45 pm

    I like how you mentioned writing with your students. I’ve taught freshmen for awhile now, so I’ve gotten used to “writing like a 9th grader” and it takes me awhile to get my own voice back!

    • January 20, 2018 / 11:47 pm

      I’m glad I’m not alone in that! It’s definitely difficult to find a happy medium of your own writing vs. writing leveled to your students!

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