At the end of the Christmas holidays, our West Vancouver School Superintendent Chris Kennedy (@chrkennedy), proposed through his blog for educators to think of a single word that might reflect their hopes and goals for the new year, a single word that would link their professional aspirations and personal pursuits….
It’s typical of us to take a journey, creating our own pathway as we always do, as we searched for that one word (which turned out to be pretty elusive in the end) that would capture the essence of what we hope to accomplish this year. And no, our one word did not turn out to be journey.
Admittedly, our first attempt at a word that reflected our personal hopes and goals was minimalism. But that was because we were both in the throws of packing up Rubbermaid containers with Christmas decorations and dealing with a fridge full of uneaten leftovers. The laundry baskets were overflowing (could any of these pieces of clothing be worn more than once before washing?) and the dishwasher was running twice a day (note to the teenagers: it’s ok to wash dishes by hand). We don’t think minimalism in the professional sense should be misconstrued as working less or less hard; but rather, prioritizing what’s most important to focus on fewer goals and successfully meet all of them. But we weren’t quite sure if minimalism was the one word for us, even though it’s a movement we very much admire.
So then we thought about some words we associate with self-regulation: calm, peaceful, and focused. We love all of those words and certainly work towards creating calm and peaceful classroom environments for our students to support their self-regulation so they can focus on classroom learning. From a professional standpoint, we know that the teacher’s ability to be self-regulated, to be able to communicate one’s thoughts and emotions and how we work through those emotions (down-regulating from upset or frustrated to calm; or up-regulating from tired or sleepy to focused) is a major factor in how well our students learn to self-regulate. It’s a professional goal that would also have many positive personal implications (and vice versa) but we’ve been teaching with self-regulation as the foundation of our Kindergarten program the past few years and it feels like we’re cheating if we select one of these words which already embodies who we are and what we do.
We dug a little deeper still, and in thinking further about our goals for this year we paused at the word self-reflection. As professional teachers we engage in a great deal of self-reflection: we’re always reflecting on the lessons we taught, how we might have taught a concept in a different manner and what we will have to change in our reteaching. We reflect on what motivates our students to engage in a particular lesson, or what the circumstances were that caused unexpected behaviours amongst the class. Writing this website has played a large part in our professional growth and development as we read, research and reflect on our teaching practise to write about issues and topics that pertain to Kindergarten. As for personal goals, the amount of time we’ve already spent in self-reflection and self-recrimination for not having met those goals has determined that what our one word for this year should be is balance.
We find ourselves talking a lot about balance. It’s something many of us strive for…but is it really attainable? On a consistent basis? Like most others, we’ve been trying to find the perfect “work/life balance” to balance work life, family life and personal wellness for years. It’s a journey, if you will, of being mindful and fully present of where you are in your day, an awareness of what you’re balancing at that exact moment. It’s a unicorn we struggle with on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly basis depending upon our time, age and circumstance. Professionally, we try to balance the children’s time for play, time for literacy, time for math, time to just allow their imaginations to run free; personally we try to balance family time, personal time, maintenance time for home and garden, time for health, spiritual and mental wellness. Is balance our one word, that will link together the goals for our professional and personal lives? We’re not sure, it doesn’t leave us feeling completely happy or satisfied with our choice.
So we thought that maybe happy is our one word.
Because isn’t happy all any of us ever want, hope or aspire to be, no matter where we are in our lives? We know that being happy doesn’t mean that everything is going to be easy. Life is full of challenges that serve only to stretch us, to help us find our best possible self. But even though those times may be difficult, hopefully we can still come out ok on the other side. We think happy fits. It’s where we want to be.
We choose happy, and to be happy, as our word for 2016.