In 2020, rediscover what you love about teaching

Instead of making a new year's resolution doomed to failure, teachers should take a different approach, says Emma Turner

Emma Turner

Blank notepad, with "2020" written at the top of the page

At this strange time of year many of us emerge, blinking, from under a weight of discarded selection-box wrappers, and wincing at the clink of the multiple numbers of bottles for recycling.

It’s also the time of year where many of us make a new year’s resolution. These annual pie-crust promises, made alongside the shadowy spectre of over-indulgence and the itch of cabin fever, are often doomed to failure. 

Good intentions to run marathons, drink less, eat more healthily, get to bed early every night or to do something intellectually self-improving like reading more or revisiting the playing of a musical instrument are made in the long hinterland days of box sets, switched-off alarms and endless hours to fill before term starts. They are not made in the squeeze of the working week, alongside the relentless juggle of work and home. 

Is it any wonder, then, that the startling change of pace between term time and holidays is the sledgehammer that quickly cracks the nut of our fledgling resolutions? 

Teachers' new year's resolutions

But our resolutions this year need not fail. Maybe we should look at the idea of resolutions slightly differently. 

Maybe to succeed at a resolution, we need to be resolute about things that are powered by our beliefs, and not by our perceived failings or inadequacies. Perhaps, instead of assigning ourselves the job of losing physical weight, we would feel we’d achieve more success if we identified what was weighing us down in term time, and channelled our energy and focus there instead. 

Identifying what we each want to be resolute about in education is potentially one way to prevent our profession being blown like leaves in the wind of others’ whims

To identify what makes us feel the glow of love for the work we do, we need to tap into what we are truly committed to. What matters to us in education? Why does it matter to us? What would we ideally like to happen? And how can we become part of this? 

Boosting teacher wellbeing

Far from the spiritlessness of hauling ourselves out for a run in the battleship grey of January, or the sad, slumping self-denial of a limp lunchbox salad, these types of resolutions pink our cheeks, frame our work with meaning, and give us a real sense of unwavering purpose.

For all of us, our resolutions will be different. They may conflict with our colleagues'. But it is such active debate and challenge that will encourage us to dig deeper, read more, learn voraciously and therefore strengthen our practice. 

Filling a system with educators who are all utterly resolute would add depth, challenge, rigour and a crackling joy to our system, rather than the crushing predictable ennui of initiatives and workload

Finding a real resolution is what has the potential to make pie-crust promises into determined action. But, all too often, we do not make the time – or have it – to reflect on what might light the fearsome fires of righteous indignation within us all. We don’t think about what aspects of our broad and diverse education system pique our interests and keep our cogs ticking and our hearts beating just that little faster. 

Like falling in love

Edu-resolutions can be a little like falling in love. For some, a shift in heart and mind is caused by a single chance incident. This love-at-first-sight resolution can be intense and fiery and all-consuming. Such is its fervour that it can be perceived by others as unobtainable. 

Others find a slow-burning aspect of the job from which they have always gleaned pleasure or humour or joy. 

It doesn’t matter which way we arrive at our edu-resolutions, as long as they are born of interest and care, and curated through curiosity and indignation. They should be food for the cognitive soul and raise the pulse rate of our teaching. 

These edu-resolutions are not broken as easily as the conventional sort. They are slow growers, nurtured by every additional interaction with colleagues, students and the education community; they are fed by every article and book we read or every piece of research we carry out

They are aligned with what we love and what made us choose teaching in the first place, and then tended by the sunshine and storms of our classroom practice. 

When these seeds of resolution are planted, they cannot fail to thrive and flourish. They have the potential to land and grow and change, and will ultimately improve things for our students, our schools and our communities. 

And if you’re not yet sure as to what your edu-resolution might be, as memories of Auld Lang Syne are lost in the busyness of term time, we could do worse than to remember to take a cup of kindness: goodwill, friendship and kind regard.

Emma Turner is the research and CPD lead for Discovery Schools Trust, Leicestershire. She tweets @Emma_Turner75 

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