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New Years Resolutions - Teacher Style

17/01/17

Another year another set of resolutions...but are you struggling to stick to them?

Be honest! Think back to all of the New Year's Resolutions you can remember making in your life and see how many of them you've actually managed to keep. I'm going to guess that it's probably not very many. It's nothing to worry about. In fact, the vast majority of people will never keep the resolutions they make at the beginning of a New Year. I'm willing to bet that most people don't even make it past the end of January.

The good news is there are reasons why it never works for most people and there is a way you can greatly increase your chances of keeping yours this year. Given that, if you're reading this, you're probably a teacher, I'm going to explain how to do this with a steady helping of classroom jargon. It's going to be cheesy and these are probably terms that you've never wanted to hear outside of your professional life but I think the analogies are memorable and, with any luck, you'll find yourself many months from now ringing in 2016 with them still finely engraved on your mind.

The main reason most people never keep their New Year's Resolutions is that they're simply too vague. Here's an example: One of the things I want to do this year is learn to swim. I've been able to swim to some degree for years but my technique's never been particularly good and I would find it difficult to swim more than a few lengths without feeling exhausted. The problem is, the resolution “learn to swim” is vague. If I set out with that goal in mind I'll never reach it because I won't even really know what I'm aiming for. So what I need is a goal that lets me know when I've achieved my objective of “learn to swim”. For that reason, I've given myself a challenge this year. I'm going to complete the Paddle 'Round The Pier open water swim in Brighton this July. It's a 1.25km swim, equivalent to 50 lengths in a 25 meter swimming pool. So here comes the teacher jargon which you can feel free to co-opt for your own goals:

Learning Objective: Be able to Swim
Success Criteria: Complete the 1.25km Paddle 'Round The Pier in Brighton in July


Ok, so I've got my Learning Objective and Success Criterion. I now have a specific goal to aim for. But there are some other things from the teacher toolkit I should take into consideration. The task of swimming 1.25km in open water is a pretty big one for someone who can currently only swim about 5 lengths in a pool before feeling exhausted. But I've got plenty of time, so here's the plan. The Paddle 'Round The Pier swim is my ultimate goal, what I want to do at the end of my Scheme of Work. Before then, I've got lots of individual lesson goals to meet that will gradually bring me further and further towards where I want to be. Each of these goals, as when you're teaching a class, need to be manageable but challenging given my ability at the time. By the end of January I want to be able to do 10 lengths, by the end of February 20 and so on. If I manage to keep the pace I will be doing the requisite 50 lengths by May, at which time I'll start trying to swim greater lengths and also join up with an open water swimming club, giving me 2 months to become comfortable with the unique challenges of swimming in open water.

There's one other teacher technique that I think works very well when trying to keep a New Year's Resolution. We all know the importance of accountability and incentivisation when teaching children. If students know that exceptional work is often shown to the Head Teacher or to their parents, they are more likely to try their best. So why not create a little light hearted incentive to meet your own goals. This year I've made a bet with a friend that I will complete the Paddle 'Round The Pier swim. If I fail, I have to donate £50 to a charity or cause of his choosing. Knowing this particular friend, he will almost certainly choose a cause that I would take the utmost displeasure in supporting. Likewise, he has resolved, this year, to learn to speak Spanish, with the goal of completing a CEFR certificate at an appropriate level in November. If he fails, he also has to donate £50 to a charity of my chosing.

I hope some of what I've written resonates with you and that you're starting to get a sense of excitement rather than trepidation thinking about all that you want to achieve this year.


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