New Year Resolutions . . . we’ve all heard of them, and chances are most of us have made them at some point in our lives. Resolutions are all about self-improvement and they contain the hope that our lives can be better than they are at this moment.
As important as making resolutions might be to us personally, it is equally important for us to strive to make improvements professionally. We have discussions in our Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), we share ideas in the staff lounge, and we research new ways to teach a concept our students struggle with. We want to give our students the very best education possible and there are times when small resolutions, small changes, can garner big results.
2022 resolutions for both myself and my Arts classroom.
Gyms are packed this time of year with hundreds of people aiming to accomplish the goal of moving more. Our students also need to move more. I remember well teaching virtually and literally not moving from my computer desk for hours on end. I realized our students do that every day and this lack of moving has ill effects on our health.
Incorporate movement into your daily lessons. Search the web for body percussion videos that teach rhythm and help students find the pulse in music while getting them grooving all at the same time. During class discussions, have students move to share their thoughts with a fellow student somewhere else in the room. Ask them to switch partners several times during a short time span to gain multiple perspectives with their minds and their bodies. At first they may think you are crazy, but over time they will crave this movement as normal in their learning day.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
This one is the hardest for me. I’m very much the Type A personality who expects things to go exactly as planned. I’ll be the first to admit that I “freak out” when something goes astray. What the COVID-19 pandemic has taught me most of all is that we can endure so much more than we ever thought possible, and we will come out okay on the other side. When I consider the trauma and tragedies that some of my students and their families have faced, I reconsider something like unexpectedly being asked to sub on my prep hour. It truly isn’t as big of a deal as I once thought it to be.
My goal is to teach my students to not “sweat the small stuff.” A common phrase I use is “Congratulations! You are a human!” We discuss that robots and computers can do things “perfectly” and consistently each time. As humans, we err, and that is okay if we learn from our mistakes. I tie this into goal setting and have my students consider what the task might actually entail before we begin. This mindfulness helps us prepare and consider what might go wrong, thus helping students prevent “silly” mistakes. When a mistake occurs, we acknowledge it, discuss why it happened and brainstorm solutions to avoid it in the future. In the words of Winston Churchill, “All make mistakes. Only (the) wise learn from their mistakes.”
Live in the moment.
My girls are both grown, and we are experiencing an “empty nest” this year. As much as I want to turn back the clock, I am focusing on this new chapter in my life with an open heart. If I wish for the past or worry about the future, I’ll miss the beautiful things happening here and now.
The same is true in my classroom. If I focus on what my students missed during the past two years or worry about what will happen next, I’ll miss the everyday moments that are so special right now. I want to be excited that they learned a new note on their instrument. I want to celebrate an excellent run of the school musical with them. I want to appreciate that they came in with a positive attitude after a rough quiz the day before. To live in the moment doesn’t mean to forget the past or be clueless about the future. It means doing both of those things while appreciating what is here, in front of you, right now.
Check off items on the “To Do” list.
The first part of this resolution is to realize that you cannot put EVERYTHING on the to do list. Be realistic; include no more than five items at a time. As each item is completed, cross it off. You will be amazed at the satisfaction of seeing items “disappear” off the list.
Students also benefit from having a list of daily or weekly projects. I take time every morning to write a lesson outline for each class and I post it on our Google Classroom page. I begin each class by reviewing the outline and asking students to gather materials they need to complete the assignments. This is especially helpful for my special education students who benefit from having clear, set expectations. After using this process for just a week, my students began to regularly refer to the outline, gather materials needed for each step without prompting, and cross off completed parts of the lesson with satisfaction.
It’s a simple idea but it’s effect upon our students can be profound. Yes, I know you have a mask on and they cannot see your smile physically, but the smile will shine through your eyes and it will lift your spirits just as much as it lifts those around you. Smiles, like negativity, can be contagious! If my smile, my “Have a great day,” or my chuckle at one of their jokes improves a child’s mental well-being for even a short moment, then it has been worth it to me.
So, what resolutions have you made for yourself? Can they carry over into your classroom like mine have? No matter what is on your list, I hope that 2022 is one of the best years yet for both you and your students!
Brenda Bressler has served as the Band and Choral director at Renton Junior High School in New Boston, Michigan since 1998. She is an active member of the Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association (MSBOA), Michigan School Vocal Music Association (MSVMA), and Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment (MAEIA). In addition to her work in the classroom, Mrs. Bressler directs the annual school musical, works as the Elective Department head, and serves on the Wayne County RESA Visual and Performing Arts Steering Committee. She resides with her husband, Dean, and has two grown daughters, Erin and Erika.Click here for a Printer friendly version of this article.