Back to the Grind and New Year’s Resolutions

My friends at the Blue Ridge Eco Shop say that if you want to become an expert on a particular topic, you should read one book on that topic each month or at least 30 minutes each day. I have spent some time debating on what topic I want to increase my expertise. Some of the top contenders were: French cooking, wine, raising chickens, differentiated instruction, knitting, and toxic chemicals in everyday consumer products. I think I have settled on the invitingly broad topic of “self-sufficient gardening and living.” As I synthesize what I am learning, I will post some updates, with the goal of reading at least one book per month.

I’m the type of person who has a hard time transitioning from one thing to another. This tendency is making going back to school after winter break quite difficult. I have put off grading and planning and all things school-related for these 2+ weeks. Instead, I got back into my running routine and my yoga practice, shoveled the sidewalk when it snowed, obtained a baking stone and began experimenting with artisnal breads, and shamelessly spent hours on the couch watching one of my favorite television shows on DVD: Gilmore Girls. The whole time, piles of papers whispered “grade me!” watching over me from their precarious perches on my computer desk. For the past two mornings my body clock has woken me up at 5 am, stressed and distressed about all the work that I so deftly avoided and that needs to be completed before I go back tomorrow. Deep down, I keep telling myself that I want to do this right! It’s a new year! I want to be prepared and make some changes that will help me get through the second half of the year smoothly. The ideas are buzzing around in my head, but then overwhelm me and I don’t know where to start. Which usually results in me taking a nap, further avoiding work that should be done.

Luckily, I stumbled across this article from Mother Earth News which offers a refreshing perspective on accomplishing those sometimes too-lofty, big-picture resolutions we tend to set. Specifically, “what can you do in the next hour” to accomplish your goals? By breaking down tasks into smaller parts we have a smaller, more specific task to accomplish within a given time frame–60 minutes. This way of thinking gives new meaning to each of our waking hours. As a teacher, especially, my bodily energy always seems to be zapped as soon as I get home, even though my brain continues to make to-do lists and think about what  needs to be done for the next day. But by setting a time limit and identifying a smaller task that can be done, my “bigger-picture” ideas seem to become more realistic. What can I do in the next hour to create an exciting and meaningful introduction to Anne Frank’s Amsterdam? What can I do in the next hour to improve my Word Study program for my students? What can I do in the next hour to tackle my vision for grammar instruction in my classroom? What can I do in the next hour to make dance team practice run smoothly this week? Breaking my ideas down into smaller, more achievable steps with deadlines gives me a way to move forward without being overwhelmed. Though my creative visions might not be accomplished all at once, I have to be okay with that–after all, it is my first year of teaching.

The concept seems simple enough, and it’s a lesson that’s been repeated to me over and over by many people in my life. But we could always use a reminder. I’m sure as I gain more experience, I might begin to think in terms of week-by-week, month-by-month, or even year-to-year. But for now, I will try to break my day into hourly increments of accomplishing something positive. We’ll see how it goes.

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