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A new year brings the promise of renewal and positive change. The hope for a fresh start commonly manifests itself in the form of resolutions. Teachers are not immune to such acts. In 2014, I boldly proclaimed my teaching resolutions. Amongst other things, I wanted to eat lunch with my students, improve my assessments, and share the why of my ideas and lessons. I was successful to varying degrees, and the act of declaring my resolutions was an important reflective activity, but I overcomplicated the matter.
As I prepared for the dawn of 2016, I strived to simplify my goals. I wanted to concentrate on something I could do daily. I wished to work on one thing that would positively impact my classroom, my colleagues, and my students. My hope was to find something that I could recommit myself to each day, each moment, even if I fell off track. I arrived at one word — love.
That’s my teaching resolution for 2016. To make love the cornerstone of my pedagogy. In many ways, it is a return to the basics. It is my personal call to rededicate myself to the most personal interactions of education.
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Deborah Meier (1995) wrote, “Teaching more than virtually any activity depends on quick instinctive habits and behavior, and on deeply held ways of seeing and valuing” (p. 139). I contend that the essence of these values and behaviors should be love. Although love is a natural human behavior, many factors cloud our actions and decisions, especially in schools. Too often we let our frustrations, our biases, our habits, and our systems prevent us from acting with deep love. Thus, it is necessary to use love as a call to intentional action and conscious decision. One must resolve to teach with love. In some ways that is sad. It some ways that is beautiful.
2016 will bring its ups and downs. Every year does. My sincere hope is an authentic concentration on love will see me through the very real struggles of being an educator. Love is a much more powerful mindset than cynicism. Educating with love shifts one’s mindset. Patience replaces a knee-jerk yell. Empathy overcomes frustration. Courage rises from fear. Optimism brings hope. A warm smile greets a colleague in the hall. Relationships win over visceral reactions.
I could make a checklist naming the many ways I plan to love more in 2016. Shoot hoops with my students at recess. Eat lunch with my staff. Make more positive phone calls. Write thank you notes. This would certainly make my goal much more tangible. It would also create what I am trying to avoid — a laundry list of resolutions instead of one. Opportunities to chose love occur within the thousands of minute interaction embedded in the ‘Daily Grind’. Love is the process of being awake to the reality of your students. Love is taking chances. Love is being vulnerable. Love is transformative. Love is spontaneous. Love happens.
Noddings (2015) said, “schools should be committed to a moral purpose: to care for children so that they, too, will be prepared to care” (p. 64). If we want our students to love, we must love.
Cheers to 2016!