Many of you will be back into the swing of things after the Christmas and New Year break. For some it will be a brand new teaching year, whilst for others it will be the start of the latter half of the academic year.
Whichever it is for you, the Christmas break is the perfect time of year for making a resolution to do something better in your teaching practice.
Like the Greek masks there are different outward ways that can show your school community that the character of your classroom has changed.
But as the wise know, the outward can only be made permanent by changes to the inward.
Changes can take a while to get used to for both yourself and your students so when implementing change it’s best to do so incrementally.
So how do I make changes in my practice?
Teacher Character Changes
The most important change to make are the ones that alter how you think and act. For instance, you may have resolved over the holidays to be more patient with a particular student.
Or perhaps it was to adopt a more disciplined attitude to students accepting consequences for not handing in homework.
I might even have been to be a more positive and cheerful teacher despite all the stresses and trials of the job.
That might mean, remembering to smile at line up, when walking past a colleague you find it difficult to get on with, or when listening to an overbearing parent.
Or it might be that you concentrate too much on peripheral tasks and not on your core duties. Taking on extra-curricular tasks might make you look good to your boss, but only for a short time, if your own classroom practice isn’t up to standard.
Time has a great way of accumulating evidence of how a teacher really operates. So ensure you are fulfilling all your core duties to the highest standards before you commit to other tasks, which might mean making some real changes to what you do.
Remember, though to implement these changes in small steps. The biggest character changes are made by a thousand little alterations.
Classroom Character Changes
The second change relates to the character of your classroom. Over the holidays, did you reflect on the character of your classroom?
Is it an unruly undisciplined shambles? It is a positive learning environment? Is it uncontrollably noisy and unorganised? What do you think others think of your classroom character?
Whatever you reflected upon, its important to make some changes not only to your own character but to the overall character of the classroom too.
Often they will go hand in hand.
For example, if you reflected that you were not fulfilling your duty as a teacher by being lazy and unprepared, then making firm resolutions to be industrious and organised, will have the overall knock on effect of bringing your classroom up to a far greater standard academically.
There are many ideals we might consider as a goal for the character of our classroom: disciplined, tidy, happy, positive, organised, Catholic, healthy, studious, academic, traditional.
Which descriptors best fit your vision for your classroom?
When you identify the ones that you would like your class to look like, start making the small changes that are required to make it a reality, but ensure they correspond to the school mission.
“Let us therefore set out wholeheartedly, leaving aside our many distractions and exert ourselves in this single purpose, before we realise too late the swift and unstoppable flight of time and we are left behind. As each day arises, welcome it as the very best day of all, and make it your own possession. We must seize what flees.” Seneca, Moral Letter, 108.27b-28a
This is a call for action. The time for procrastination is over. To make changes, action has to happen.
The longer you neglect areas that need addressing, the more ingrained they become in your character. If you identify a weakness, practice little things every day that directly challenge it.
The colleague that you dislike: go out of your way to say hello and how are you, to them! The first time is the most difficult, the second easier, the third time easier still.
What about internal politics and backbiting amongst staff? There are colleagues who are adept at backbiting and trouble making, truly nasty in undermining others but who likewise dupe their supervisors into thinking that they are innocent and collegial.
Avoid them like the plague. Make a solemn interior declaration, starting from now, not to speak about other staff members unless in a positive way.
And a final example, what about the parent you are frightened of? Pick up the phone, take a deep breath and let them know how their child is doing. Before you know it your courage will have doubled.
So, before you dash off and get on with everything else you have to do today, why not take a moment to write in your diary, just one area of your own and your classroom’s character that you would like to change.
Put a reminder in your calendar one month from now to keep yourself accountable.