My colleague, @MsLoneyMath, made the comparison that, for many, today is the real New Year’s Eve… the night before the start of the school year. This idea is echoed throughout much of social media with numerous posts, tweets, and photos connected with the first day of school. (For a particularly fun one check out this video that has been making the rounds from the West Des Moines Community School District.)

While this New Year’s Eve will look very different for many than December 31st, and I can guarantee that I won’t try to be up nearly as late as I would on December 31st, the idea of New Year’s Resolutions and changes for the upcoming year come to mind. However, as I think back to the work I did last year with Dennis Sparks on inspiring and influencing change, I do not want to make any resolutions, but instead three commitments (or promises) to myself, my colleagues, and my students.

Below you will find my 3 commitments that I hope will start this new school year off on the best foot possible.

#1 – There’s Never a Last Chance

Throughout every professional learning experience I took part in last year, whether as a participant or facilitator, the topic of mindset was carefully integrated throughout each activity or conversation. Much of the work our system teams have been exploring throughout my two years in these roles have focused on helping teachers understand the finer points of mindset and the importance of working towards a growth mindset with their students and practice. Looking ahead to next year, I commit to keep my own mindset open and supportive for all teachers I work with and never say that there is ‘no hope’/’no point’ working with a teacher, department, or school. While some teachers may jump on board an idea right away, others need time and multiple opportunities to ruminate on an idea. I commit to continue to provide these opportunities and not make any assumptions about the groups with whom I work next year. Time and time again I am reminded that you never know what topic or idea may have made an in-road or created a spark. Truly, those seemingly disinterested or combative teachers can often inspire the most conversation and change in the end!

#2 – Make (and Keep!) Time for Myself

Regardless of the roles I’ve had in the classroom, be it classroom teacher, coach, or learning coordinator, I have always found that the work is neverending. As soon as you get ahead of planning the next lesson/activity/professional learning experience/conference etc, the next one is now on the go. The last school year also had an added buzz of energy and focus on mathematics at all levels from elementary classrooms, to secondary projects, and to administrative and ministry learning initiatives. Because of this, I found myself (luckily!) having teachers request support to co-plan lessons together or try out a new strategy in their classroom. However, while I had originally planned to give myself some time throughout the weeks to prepare for future sessions and activities, I found myself quickly giving up all of my ‘prep days’ to support other colleagues. While this was great on-the-spot learning, I also found that I was moving so quickly from one project to the next that I did not give myself time to reflect on the last project. Looking ahead, I commit to taking time to reflect on each project and activity I am a part of, and to share those thoughts either through conversation with colleagues or in this medium.

#3 – Simply put… Get In More Classrooms

Along with the numerous professional learning opportunities that I spent time working on last year, I found that much of my school day hours were filled in meeting with colleagues in Learning Support Services, school teams, or ministry teams. Because of this, I found a stark difference in the amount of time I was able to be in schools in classrooms between last year and the year before when I was in a coaching role. While I know many of those meetings and projects will continue this year, I commit to connecting with teachers (and students!) as much as possible in this upcoming school year and finding my way into classrooms regularly. It can be easy to propagate the stereotype that ‘those in the ivory tower do not understand the reality of the classroom’. Along with continuing to inspire my own learning and connections with students and teachers, I hope that this commitment will also help keep me grounded and see what the strategies and ideas that I share with teachers look like in their classrooms more regularly.

Do you have any New Year Commitments that you would make to/for yourself? I’d like to tag a few colleagues of mine at TVDSB and challenge them to share 3 commitments they would make to themselves, their schools, their colleagues, or their students as we start the 2015-2016 school year. Please tag your post with #MyNewYearCommitments!

Until next time…


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