Finding My Teacher Joy Again in the New Year

A MiddleWeb Blog

I normally don’t like making New Year resolutions. They usually just make me feel discouraged when they go by the wayside after a few weeks. However, I do think there are natural breaks in the year where it makes sense to reflect and adjust.

At the end of last semester, I was feeling discouraged and didn’t have a lot of joy or enthusiasm. I battled pneumonia for the entire month of December so that didn’t help, but there was more to it than that. I realized I needed to reflect and make some adjustments.

So, I spent a lot of time during my break thinking about why I wasn’t as excited about going to work as I normally am and what I can do to regain my enthusiasm. I thought about what was causing me stress and what I could do to alleviate it. I also thought about what I enjoyed in my everyday routine. After much thought I came up with four “resolutions.”

1.) Keep a log of one good thing

At the end of the day I will write down one thing that brought me joy (excitement, happiness). I am limiting myself to one thing because I don’t want it become cumbersome. I want a record of what makes my job enjoyable so I can work to have more moments like that. We recently went back to school (January 3rd was professional development for teachers only, January 4th was students’ first day back), and this is my log so far.

January 3rd: I enjoyed having a long lunch with my fellow math teachers.
January 4th: A student walked in my room and said, “I’ve missed this class!”
January 5th: Had a great time playing Life (the board game) with my students in Algebra with Finance class!

I can’t wait until the end of the school year when I can look back at my log and read all of my favorite moments!

2.) Don’t try every new strategy, game, technology…(fill in the blank)

This resolution runs counter to my typical teaching style. I like to try lots of things, usually several things at once. However, it can be exhausting and frankly can hinder good teaching. I plan to be more intentional when implementing new teaching practices. That doesn’t mean I don’t think you should try new things. I just plan to be more judicious and not try too many things at once. By reducing the variables I may get a clearer idea about the impact of the new.

3.) Don’t avoid problems or concerns

For instance, there have been times this year when I felt like my classroom management was not where it should be. For a while, I mentally avoided thinking about it, but it seemed like it was always hanging out in the back of my mind.

It’s always been hard for me to admit to others that I need help or that am I struggling, but I did open up to my colleagues and ask for their advice regarding classroom management. Of course they were supportive and offered good advice.

I also looked up several articles from sources that I trust, plus I got useful information from such posts as 5 Principles of Outstanding Classroom Management. At least now I can address the problem to the best of my ability and not worry that I have just let the issue slide.

4.) Set limits on time spent at work (and stick to them)

I think every teacher understands the difficulty of balancing work and home, but I am going to do my very best to set reasonable limits on the time I spend on work.

Do you reflect this time of year?

I realize my resolutions are unique to me and may not help everyone. But I do recommend reflecting and making adjustments if needed. Personally, I found that just admitting to myself that there was a problem helped. I want to enjoy my job not just for myself, but because I know it will make me a better teacher for my students.

What teaching resolutions have you made for 2018?

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell (@michel1erussel1) is a math teacher at Florence (AL) High School, where she serves as the Academic Leader of the math department. She began her career as a student teacher in middle school and has taught students from 7th to 12th grade. For the past nine years, she's taught high school math, including Algebra IB, Algebraic Connections, Pre-Calculus, AP Statistics, Algebra with Finance, and Algebra 2 with Trigonometry. She is currently involved in the Laying the Foundations initiative and the Mathematics Design Collaborative. In her free time, she enjoys reading blogs and tweets from other math teachers.

5 Responses

  1. Christin says:

    I love your idea of one good thing a day. I’ve been feeling down lately about my work at school and I tend to focus on the negative. I hope this will help to accentuate the positive. I’m also going to include one good thing from my life outside of school as well.

  2. Michelle Russell says:

    Thank you for your comment! I was like you, I had gotten discouraged and I knew I needed to do something. I have only kept my journal for a few days, but it’s already helping me focus on the positive aspects of my day. Good luck!

  3. Maureen Thomson says:

    I also appreciate the idea of writing down one good thing each day, which helps to notice events that might otherwise fall by the wayside in the everyday shuffle. My resolution is to stay late one day each week until my room is better organized. The unfiled papers cost me time and effort when I have to hunt for them.

    • Michelle Russell says:

      That is a great resolution! I know I waste too much time looking for papers that I have misplaced. I need to do that too! I also need a better system for organizing my papers. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Mary Langer Thompson says:

    Yes, I like the paper/organization resolution, too. Current research on gratitude supports your one good thing a day, too.

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