One of the many glories I have always appreciated about the teaching profession is the annual chance for renewal. When that final bell rings in May, the scholastic slate is wiped clean. Grade books are put to rest, students recess for a relaxing summer break, and a crop of fine graduates are replaced with young seeds soon to begin their academic careers. A brand new year is on the horizon, bringing endless possibilities for new challenges and professional growth. The renewal is refreshing, and I am certain has factored into my desire to remain in education for 24 years now.
Come January 1st of every year, the entire world is granted a similar chance to start fresh with new goals, an excuse to change some habits and a time to self-reflect when faced with the question, “so what’s your New Year’s Resolution?” For some reason, though, it just doesn’t feel the same as the school year cycle’s end. The stakes are high these days, as our mailboxes fill with ads for fitness equipment and debt consolidation plans. Television stations constantly stream weight loss commercials and testimonies of the rare few who can “lose 70 lbs. in just 12 weeks”. Social media is a “double whammy” with both the ads and discussion threads reminding us that we should change and change big. Stressful, to say the least.
I was not at all surprised to read Forbes magazine’s claim that only 8% of Americans actually fulfill their New Year’s commitments. Now, I would be out of job as a head of school in a second if we produced such a dreadful rate of failure with our students. Fortunately, that is not the case at the Episcopal School of Knoxville (ESK), and I often wonder if the national rate of resolution return would improve if folks approached their goals like we do in a school year. Here are some thoughts for you to consider as you make headway with your 2017 goals:
Schedule Adequate Time- Our school calendar is comprised of 174 days, giving us over 1,300 face-to-face instructional hours and plenty of benchmarks to accomplish our curricular goals. Just as important, we schedule some very important downtime with weekends and holidays scattered in there to allow students (and teachers) to catch their breath.
Set Developmentally Obtainable Goals- I don’t expect 1st grade students to solve quadratic equations, nor do expect every 8th grader to score in the 95th percentile on a PSAT. Tailoring an educational experience that is developmentally appropriate for each child can quickly result in academic competence and a much happier child.
Surround Yourself with “Doers”- One of my favorite strategists, Jim Collins, says, “get the right people on the bus.” Another says, “hang around a dog long enough, and you’ll get fleas.” Both tidbits are very true, and support the importance of keeping yourself immersed in good company. I am extremely fortunate to have wonderful parents and teachers at school who share the common denominator of educational investment. They go the extra mile to ensure our kids receive the very best experience possible. The climate is contagious, “doing” becomes the “in-thing”, and goals are accomplished with ease.
Embrace Your Character- There are many character education programs out there in schools, but one I can endorse with great affirmation is the Tribes Learning Community. Composed of six common sense instructions, the Tribes Agreements truly motivate a positive attitude and lead our school community to a healthy culture of success. See how they may work for you:
Right to Pass
No Put Downs
Let Go and Move On
Have Faith- Yes, I had to throw in a little Episcopalian-ism to the resolution formula. The power of belief is truly amazing and never to be underestimated. Find some time to be quiet, to reflect, and to be thankful.
I hope that you find yourself in that 8% success rate this year. If you ever need a little moral support, come spend a day with us at ESK. It is truly a special place, and the spirit of our students will remind you that just about anything is possible.
Peace be with you!
Dr. Jack Talmadge
Head of School