It's that New Year resolution time of year again

10th January 1997 at 00:00
Well, here we are again, another year older, another year wiser. Part of that wisdom should be knowing that, for most of us, making resolutions for the New Year is something of a double-edged sword.

We spend some of our time in that over-stuffed, slightly blottoed limbo that exists between the turkey and the bongs of Big Ben examining our life and drawing up lists of what we think we need to do. After hours of soul searching, we come up with our route to the Elysian fields - that is, our new life. All we have to do is lose weight, take more exercise, work harder, achieve more . . . This makes us feel good about ourselves for at least the day and a half before the "Oh well, just one more chocolate can't hurt, I'll start in earnest tomorrow" syndrome takes hold.

As teachers, we should know better. We spend our professional lives setting goals for children, congratulating them on their achievements and consoling them when it becomes apparent that those targets were out of their reach, knowing there is always a danger that repeated failure leads to disillusionment and disaffection.

So why do we torture ourselves year after year? For the simple reason that we are all programmed by society and the media to believe that we should aspire to being better, fitter, healthier, sportier people. As it is inevitable, then, that we will succumb to this pressure and make resolutions, we should consider carefully the nature of the promises we make at this time of year.

"I promise to organise my time better, to allocate a specific slot to each task and get it done then." Not bad. In fact, it has the makings of a classic resolution, ie that it will have fallen by the wayside within a week. Why? Because it doesn't take into account human nature or the fact that emergencies always happen when you had something else planned.

At a management training course I went on, a person with a flip chart and marker pen came up with all sorts of acronyms to help us remember how to plan our lives and our work. Time planning was encapsulated in the letters START. Three of the letters stood for Small, Achievable and Realistic, but I've forgotten what the other two stood for. I am, therefore, going to share with you my best ever list of work-place resolutions: 1 I will hide my white-board marker pens so that the adult-education teacher who uses my room for her evening class is not tempted into mild kleptomania.

2 I will keep my A4 paper in little boxes (the lids of the boxes in which photocopier paper comes) so when the plastic gets ripped I won't lose half the packet on to the floor.

3 I will keep my school keys attached to my person with the handy-clip thing that came out of my cracker.

This a short list so that I might be able to remember the three things. They are also relatively insignificant, so that when I abandon them I can say, quite happily, "There's more to life than white-board markers."

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