In graduate school, I observed highly skilled and passionate teachers and wondered how they worked their magic. Later, I’d see similar magic as a young teacher at the Harley School. I soon learned part of the magic was Responsive Classroom. Being the Type A person I was (am?), I dug in to learn more.
Each year, I deliberately followed the Responsive Classroom’s outline for the first six weeks of school. It was clear the hopes and dreams part had a lasting impact. I saw kids from prekindergarten through middle school ponder what they wanted to do for the year – an enlightening and empowering process for them and for me. It wasn’t always neat and easy, but with conversation and stories, we got into some deep thinking. Every kid I ever taught was able to articulate what they wanted to accomplish or feel during the year.
I saved gems like this:
This process gave way to our class rules. Every time one of us slipped and forgot to “do the rules,” we had our class guidelines and shared hopes to buoy us. It was a beautiful series of miracles in the classroom – not always perfect, but yet miraculous. This included revisiting those hopes and dreams mid-year, partly to keep them fresh and honestly, in large part because we all know what a two-week winter break does to a classroom routine.
Absent a classroom full of kids, I still find January the time to revisit my hopes and dreams in January. Now I think of them more as intentions. Over the past two weeks, there have been countless articles and posting about News Year’s intentions and resolutions. Here are a few that caught my eye:
- Gretchen Rubin’s 9 Tips if You’re Making Work-Related Resolutions
- Jessica Lahey and K.J. Del’Atonoia’s #AmWriting Podcast 35 #Ready, Set, Goals
- Fast Company’s The Secrets to Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions
- Left Brain Buddha’s A Mindful Approach to New Year’s Resolutions
Those musings will trickle off in the coming weeks, just our collective vim and vigor for keeping those fresh, mindful starts will, too. In fact, Fast Company says a mere 8% of us will follow through on our January goals. Back to unchecked lists, frustration and feeling off-kilter, unbalanced or unfocused. We’ll forget to do what we intended. We all need something attainable, a wee bit of a stretch, yet still comfortable, and for Pete’s sake, something that feels good so we’re motivated to stick it out.
When a first grader told me she wanted to “know her times tables,” we chatted a bit. I inquired why (it included some adult influence) and what it would do for her. We talked about the kinds of math problems she could solve and what tools she used. There were openings for me to suggest working on smaller goals such as remembering tricks for addition or working on not using manipulatives to count. I gently explained this would make multiplication easier down the road. This keen and creative thinker told me “that would make me smile if I could do that in my thinking brain.” Ah, it would feel satisfying, yes?
Just like “getting fit” feels hard to attain adults until you break it down into small steps like exercising three times a week or eliminating that 3 p.m. coffee. These are small steps that can leave one feeling more energetic or healthy, just as this six-year-old needed help to break down something huge and work on what felt good and achievable.
So think about your resolutions, goals or intentions. What’s huge and fuzzy and just too big to wrap your head around? What are small, attainable steps that will give way to the feelings you want to feel and the person you want to be?
More next week, but until then, let me ask you for this one small step, one I’m confident you can take.
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