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Personal Development

A New Year is Here, So Now What?

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A New Year is Here, So Now What?

SOURCE: Unsplash - Daria Nepriakhina

It is nearly impossible to welcome a new calendar year without thinking about what is to come. The pressure to set new goals, make new plans, and start anew is brought on by the constant reminders from our friends, social networks, and media of all types. Essentially, you would have to be living under a rock not to be bombarded with the expectations of setting new year resolutions. Well, this year I asked myself, what if we saw the new year’s resolution craze for what it really was, an arbitrary point in time in the dead of winter that is marketed as a reset button. Upon further reflection, I believe that we are easily charmed by this idea of a ‘do-over’ because we fundamentally lack stick-to-itiveness for many of our challenging goals in life. I say this not as a pessimist, rather, as a realist that aims to focus on the bigger issue to actually achieve real change. After all, isn’t that what we all really want in the new year, change? So to do this, I will embark on the following alternative plan of action for 2019 and suggest you do the same.

  1. Count your blessings and answered prayers for the year.
    Make this a practical exercise by listing out as many blessings you can think of in 5 minutes for each month of the year. You could start with the December and work your way backward to January. Also, if you have not already done so, commit to keeping a blessings/answered prayer log this year to help you with this process in the future. The best way to put the year in perspective is to review your blessings.
  2. Take time to clarify what is most important to you.
    It is so easy to fill our lives with things that really don’t matter. We are so busy with life’s distractions, influences, and entertainment competing for our emotions, energy, and commitment that we can become a magnet for trivial pursuits. To counter this, we have to focus and refocus on ‘the main thing continually’. Try putting your ideas on paper with a simple table using columns for spiritual desires, family desires, health desires, personal desires, and professional desires. I suggest these categories because most people usually end up pursuing things related to them, but feel free to make columns for the things that you tend to commit time and effort. Then list your most desired outcomes for each. I recommend adding results to help you clarify what goal obtainment would look like and to encourage action toward each area. Keep refining your list until you have one for each category. Once complete, your table should contain what matters most to you. As your life changes adjust, but always revisit before establishing a new goal and committing your time.
  3. Recognize what is driving you to make a goal.
    This is probably the most troubling aspect of making new year’s resolutions. Far too often we go with the flow without asking the question, ‘where is this coming from?’ before taking action. Are we being inspired by someone else’s success, the fear of missing out, a clever marketing campaign, or are we merely avoiding a more significant issue altogether? The best way to accomplish this is, to be honest with yourself and ask why five times to get to the heart of what is behind our desires to take action. Getting a handle on our motivations will always result in making better choices.
  4. Drop any dead weight – things that are not working need to go.
    This is easier said than done. You may even say this is harder than starting something new because our human nature and tendency to hold on to things that we have attached emotion or affixed meaning. Unfortunately, the reality is, we all tend to hesitate when it comes to confronting failures. Maybe that is because we are so used to seeing failures as negatives. Don’t get me wrong, I like to succeed as the next person, but the older I get, the more I appreciate learning – that is learning what works and what doesn’t work. We have to work at framing failures like a researcher developing prototypes. Every day we get the chance to make a new and improved version of ourselves, and this innovative mindset should lead us to scrutinize results frequently and make decisions to stop pursuing the things that don’t work. If you really feel the urge to start something new for 2019, how about starting the year with less – no more time wasters!
  5. Make a plan to review the progress of your goals at the beginning of each season – Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter.
    Yes, the need to review and revise is real, and I am not suggesting that we run from it. Instead, I am recommending that we put it in perspective. If we had a regular routine of goal evaluation throughout the year, we might find ourselves obtaining more goals and achieving what matters most in life. This is what led to my efforts to turn these steps into a practical exercise every quarter. Developing the right habits of mind toward continuous improvement and establishing practical steps for realizing success in life are always more important than following fads, trends, and emotional rollercoasters that end in failure and the need to reset every year.

So here’s to a year filled with daily renewals and not another once a year shot in the arm with the urge to set new goals.

Education Reform

Time for A PLC Refocus

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Time for A PLC Refocus

Throughout an academic year, an instructional coach can find themselves going through cycles when working within professional learning communities (PLCs).  When you reflect on the function of your PLC group, it is easy to see how the PLC could loose focus on the main goals.  If the facilitator of the PLC doesn’t recognize the need for re-calibration early enough even the most dedicated group of educators could become completely derailed and discouraged.  As a result of experiencing PLC train wrecks as well as PLC success stories, I developed the following short refocusing exercise for the instructional coach or PLC facilitator to implement with a team of teachers.  Every team has different dynamics, but usually, around mid-year, a very observant instructional coach could begin to notice the signs that suggest it is time for a PLC Refocus.  This is simple in concept, but it requires skillful execution.  If the timing is right and the approach is non-judgmental the PLC could benefit greatly.  Give it a try, and share your results.

PLC Refocus Framework

Focus on Learning Focus on Collaboration Focus on Results Focus on Support
1. How are our actions reflecting that our focus is on student learning! 1. What are our team’s unique strengths and weaknesses? 1. How do you know that collaborative planning times are effective? 1. Specifically, how can external people and resources provide more support towards our efforts?
2. What tools do you use to reveal student understanding?  How do the results impact our collaboration? 2. How are we holding one another accountable for behaviors and actions? 2. What evidence do you see as a result of our collaborative planning?  Is there a significant change or are we doing what we have always done? 2. How could an instructional coaching impact our team?
3. As a group what obstacles are holding us back from establishing more productive collaborative planning time?

Revisiting PLC Norms
Present each question to the entire team for collaboration and ask them to share their thoughts one question at a time.  Ask clarifying questions like those below to simplify the group’s responses and collect their final answers.

  1. What will you say and do when you disagree?
  2. What will you say and do when you are not comfortable with a concept or teaching strategy?
  3. What will you say and do when a colleague achieves a goal?
  4. What will you say and do when a colleague doesn’t follow the PLC Norms?
Personal Development

Implementing Traffic Light Reflection

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Implementing Traffic Light Reflection

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

In a world of ever-increasing productivity, it is easy to feel the pressure to do more. I know many educators, including myself, have been forced to learn how to do more with less in this down economy and diminishing education budgets. I, in fact, have been reflecting more on my current realities and have been trying out different strategies for increasing my teachers’ effectiveness. So far one of the most effective strategies has been helping teachers establish and follow through with a traffic light reflection.  If you work in a coaching role with teachers, try these three strategies for helping increase teacher effectiveness.


1. Examine your practice. When I work with educators, I constantly try to help them make connections between their efforts and their desired results.  Well, that involves two important steps: understand clearly what you are trying to achieve and recognize the actions you are taking to accomplish your goals. I believe it is essential that a coach have clarity in both before successfully helping an educator reach his goals. Basic questions like, what evidence should you see to inform you that you are reaching your goals, what would success look like for you, or what moves have you made as a result of these on to the next challenge, should become a regular part of a teacher’s reflection and should be answered with clear measurable steps or actions for the coach.

2. Red Light, Yellow Light, Green Light. In everything, a coach should strive to help a teacher take a structured approach toward  reflection.  As I mentioned earlier, it is easy to get into the routine of adding on more things to do or taking on more responsibilities.  In my work I have found that more attention should be given to identifying the actions that are contributing to the goal as well as those that are not contributing.  To do this I recommend using what I call a traffic light approach to reviewing action.  If followed one should look at the actions that should be started – the “green light”, the actions that should be continued – the “yellow light”, as well as the actions that should be stopped – the “red light”.  I have personally found it easier to find the green and yellow light tasks that should be added or continued, while the red light tasks that need to be discontinued are sometimes less obvious.

3. Take a 30 day challenge.  This step is simple.  Now that you have clearly articulated the end goal and have applied a traffic light reflection to your actions, make a concerted effort to keep track of your efforts for 30 days.  I have found that making this short-term goal allows you to ease into the new reflection habit while giving you enough time to measure a change in your effectiveness.  With a new year right around the corner this could be a perfect fit.

Try this traffic light reflection strategy and let me know what you think.