If you’re like me, you’ve heard more than enough about new year’s resolutions. (After I wrote that, I was re-reading old blog posts – funny thing, a similar thought was posted last January in Here We Go, 2011 ). I’m really not being redundant!
As the calendar changes, so do outlooks, diets, and exercise habits. The thing is, the new year is just a new day. Just each of the other 364 days in the year. And the first week in January is one of 52 new weeks we get to start. Is there a need to fuss over new year’s? Instead, could we set a strong example each day or each week? This process of self-reflection and growth helps children take ownership for their learning and their life and can=, in fact, become a routine part of life that surface more often simple new year’s resolutions.
In many elementary classrooms, the idea of resolutions is evident at this time of year. Often September hopes are revisited and revised mid-year and there is some discussion of growth. As a Follow Up To, Here We Go, I wrote about how one third grade class worked through the arduous process of reflection and goal setting. Some of those kids have stopped by recently to tell me what current hopes and goals they’ve set. Very cool to see how they use that example and forge ahead in their new developmental stage. In many classrooms, January is the time to stop and practice these important life skills. But the key lies in using that reflection on personal and academic growth on a more regular basis.
As young children struggle to understand the concept of time (“this year” s. the school year that is barely halfway over) and begin wrestle with how to achieve lofty goals, they are beginning the lifelong process of evolution. To do this, they need thoughtful adults to help them identify the objectives and tasks requisite toward achieving any type of goal. Concrete thinkers can to begin to identify their growing edges and decide the next steps – beyond meeting obligations that yield extrinsic rewards. The challenge for supportive adults is to keenly and authentically ask questions and observe in order to discern what is truly important to the child and to work collaboratively to set small steps of achievable objectives. Practice with these steps – identification of areas to grow or change, breaking down larger tasks into smaller one, and diligently working to move forward – are life skills that serve children throughout their schooling and life.
No matter how valuable this process is, the truth remains that each of us have the power to set goals each day, not just each year. Just like an intention set during a meditation or at the start of a yoga practice daily goals can be simple and actionable, not to mention, heart-felt. When we are honest and compassionate with ourselves, we can set small and achievable goals every day for both ourselves and alongside children. As we model honest self-reflection and clearly identified purpose, children can see how being mindful and open to growth each day brings positive results.
In the classroom, this might be something as simple as, “think of one way you can take care of our materials today” or “what is one hard thing you think you might try in math workshop.” Follow this up with reinforcing language (“I noticed you took some time to straighten the books in our biographies basket…”) or time at the end of the day for a quick check-in (“how did it feel to try the math challenge?”) and you’re taking a child to the next step. Beyond just thinking of what could be done better, more thoroughly or with a greater sense of purpose, you are offering keen observations and carefully crafted questions that help to build confidence, autonomy and positive attitude on learning and life.
That’s more than a new year’s resolution. It’s a fresh start each and every day. All the best in the new year and each new day!