Welcome to a new year! It’s time again to think about the upcoming year and the resolutions. We all know what we NEED to do: exercise more, eat healthier, go to bed earlier, and not be so stressed. We try to accomplish the same resolutions year to year. Regardless if you succeed or not year to year, try something different this year. I challenge you to focus on your students this new year instead of self-improvement. I guarantee that some of your personal resolutions will be accomplished (like less stress) if you focus on them. Here’s a few ideas:
Applaud the strengths:
It so easy to focus on the student’s failures, especially when we are asked to monitoring them via RtI and such. It’s natural to spend more time on the weaknesses in order to improve these areas. However, all the negative attention to the weaknesses can also result in the students feeling overwhelmed. Take some time this year to applaud your student’s strengths. This will build confidence and the desire to persist through the difficulties. Find a way to celebrate the strengths for each student.
Commend the Effort:
With end of the year standardized tests, it’s easy to focus on only aspects of education that will be tested later in the year. But, education is far greater than grades and one score on a standardized test. Education is learning and the application of learning. When your students are trying their best and their hardest, we should demonstrate the value of hard work and determination. Your students have more control of their own effort than they do on the actual grade given on a test. When we show them to take pride in their work, this will encourage that putting forth the effort is actually worth it, even if the grades don’t always match. Remember, one of my favorite quotes from Nelson Mandela: “I never lose. I either win or I learn.” Resolve to teach your students the power of determination this year.
Reduce Student Stress:
Here in January, you probably have your class running like a well-oiled machine, but that doesn’t always mean it’s a stress-free environment for learning. Review your classroom. Look at the environment itself and see if there’s any way to reduce tension. Are some the students being distracted by their proximity to the computers or the reading lab? Will it be calming to play soft classical instrumental music during quiet reading time? Is there any way to create a more relaxed environment for your students?
Learn Something New That Excites Them:
I know you probably have your curriculum completely planned out from now until the summer, but, I challenge you with a simple resolution. Teach the students something they want to learn about. You can pose the question to the class and see what the students are eager to learn about. You can encompass many different subjects into this, if you so choose. Pick one of the ideas that most of the students are interested in and have fun with learning. Create projects or help them research the topic. Provide the structure for the students and they will provide the excitement to learn. This doesn’t have to be a long, multiple day task, unless you want it to. You can spend as much or as little time on this as you wish. It’s up to you. Allow the students to experience how much fun learning can be when it’s done for the sake of learning and not for just test preparation.
This might be the simplest and the hardest resolution. You have spent countless days with these students already and summer is still too far away. These are the cold winter days where being positive is sometimes difficult to muster. Still, if you decide to only follow one resolution this year, try this one. Positivity can go a long way. Even when you don’t feel like it, greet every student with a smile and a “Good morning! I’m so happy to have you in my class today!” Your attitude, be it positive or negative, will set the tone for the classroom.
What else could you resolve to do for your students for this new year? Take some time to consider what you can do for them, especially since you are still with them for another 5 months. Happy New Year!
Author: Kelly Dale, School Psychologist