I always start the new year with big dreams. More differentiation! Answer all the emails all the time! Clean up the posters from four years ago that are rotting behind the computer table! But let’s face it: accomplishing those lofty goals seems unlikely at best! So instead of being overly ambitious, here are a few New Year’s resolutions I might actually be able to fulfill. What are yours?
1. No diets.
I read somewhere—pretty sure it was Anne Lamott—that the number one side effect of dieting is weight gain. I can find many, much more pleasant ways to gain weight, thank you very much. Plus, in all honesty, few things frustrate me more than the existence of the Paleo diet. Seriously? You want to eat like a caveman? You know their life expectancy was, like 22, right? And they were chasing their own mammoth steak, not picking it up at Trader Joe’s! So as a reaction against the folks who follow this absurdity, I intend to eat more gluten, buy fewer organic items, and incorporate more dairy into my diet. (But I’ll still try to steer clear of the evil Costco cake in the workroom!)
2. Talk to more adults about stuff other than school.
I actually went to see the new Star Wars movie just to facilitate this conversation. I’ve been avoiding spoilers and reading up on fan theories so I can converse with a very specific nerd subgroup. Except that there’s a Harry Potter movie marathon all week, so all the people I could talk to are at home on the couch drinking homemade butter beer and knitting Gryffindor scarves.
3. Read more books in which the protagonist is over the age of 18.
I love me some young adult lit. Rainbow Rowell is pretty much my girl. But I went to the library last week, and now I’ve got a whole selection of grownup books—cookbooks, memoirs, Pulitzer Prize-winners. I just think that 1 out of every 18 books I read should have a theme other than “coming of age.”
4. Drink more hot beverages while listening to music.
I live across the street from my school, so my planning can go one of two ways: 1) I can sit in my fluorescent-lit classroom, door closed because the eighth graders are rehearsing Anne Frank scenes right outside my room, frantically grading papers and hoping no administrators come in, or 2) I can sign out at the front office, walk one block, and spend forty-five minutes on the couch with my dog, a cup of Trader Joe’s tea, and a stack of essays while Mumford and Sons plays in the background. Granted, sometimes I have to make copies or use my school computer. But sometimes I don’t, and it’s totally worth the three-minute commute to get out of the building for a little while.
5. Cut myself a little slack.
Here’s a scene that plays itself out every single day at school: We’re at recess. I watch three girls chase their friend with a spider on a stick, making sure that it doesn’t get out of hand. Meanwhile, José slide-tackles Bryan in the soccer game. Bryan ends up at the clinic, and I feel terrible because I should have somehow single-handedly prevented that accident from happening while monitoring 85 kids during 30 minutes of unstructured outside time. No more. Enough of that nonsense. I am one person who happens to be doing a damn good job, and I will remember that fact instead of thinking about all the things I couldn’t prevent from happening. (Ha ha, just kidding. I’ll remember them for like five minutes until I get fussed at for something else that was completely beyond my control!)
6. Give myself credit for the things I get right.
This year, I used social media to get Christmas presents for 16 kids who would otherwise not have had them. Lots of people sent me money, and I got to go shopping and buy nail polish and funny hats and stuffed animals and ridiculously oversized Nikes that look like they should belong to Marty McFly. It’s the kind of thing I normally forget about, but I’m leaving a receipt on my desk for now—if I can locate it amid all the other crap on my desk—because it deserves to be remembered when I’m having a bad day.
7. Get organized … for real this time.
Throw away all the things. Set fire to the file cabinet I’ve been shoving things into for 10 years now. Ditch the review books targeting a test my kids stopped taking in 2013. I’ve put it off long enough. It’s time to start the new year actually knowing where things are in my black hole of a classroom!
8. Stop making more work for myself.
This might seem like an odd thing for a teacher to say, but my kids don’t need homework every night. In fact, research says they’re probably better off without it. And less homework for them means less grading for me! I can team up with other teachers on units, be a little more mindful about my assignments, and say no to the extras that aren’t important to me. Or at least I can try.
9. Be present wherever I am.
If I’m at school, I’m at school. If I’m having dinner at home with my family, then I’m in that moment. As teachers, we’ll always be taking work home and listening to music while we grade (see number four). But sometimes, it’s hard to let go of all that goes on during the day. I’m going to try.
10. Remember to be grateful.
My kids are wild, my school is nuts, and my days are chaotic … And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Every day, I get to witness my little monsters turning into slightly more mature, compassionate people. Every day, I see love winning in some small way—when a kid sits with somebody new in the cafeteria, when a kid thanks me for basically anything, when a class falls in love with a book and begs to read the sequel. I want to live more in those moments, to recognize them amid the mess that surrounds them, so that my kids can learn to see them, too.
How about you? What are your New Year’s resolutions? Can we all agree to leave the Paleo diet alone? Please share in the comments.