I don’t like New Year’s Resolutions; it’s just one more thing to make me feel guilty. Like most people, my resolve runs out before the end of January and by March I don’t even remember what my resolutions were. I quit making them years ago, at least in the old way of listing goals and drumming up my willpower to meet them.
What I do like are reflections. I like looking back over a period of time, thinking about where I have come from and the decisions I have made, and evaluating the influences in those decisions and the outcomes of them. Hopefully, I learn something in this process. Reflection is what keeps one from going through life blindly, making the same moves like a default on a computer without considering that the same habits net the same outcome every time. The process of reflection enables one to change directions which is what resolutions are all about.
It’s important to get away from “I resolve” – which will not be successful with the same old bad habits and practices – and begin the year with reflection. After reflection is the time to make resolutions. Then and only then do I have the knowledge needed to make changes in my life. Reflection is the foundation of successful resolutions.
With all that in mind, I begin the new semester by asking my students to reflect on their first semester as high schoolers. They laugh remembering how scared they were of the lunchroom the first few days of school, how they quaked in fear at the sight of the dean with the flat top haircut. ( Some of them are still quaking in his presence, but that might be a good thing.) They were scared of the big juniors and seniors who now have become friends and role models. They survived, maybe even thrived, in the first semester of a foreign language or a high school sport. For some, their grades took a dip compared to middle school days. They need to figure out why.
Here are the questions I asked them to ponder and respond to in writing:
What were the best and worst decisions that you have made this semester? What were the differences in them? What or who influenced those decisions?
If you were starting ninth grade all over, what would you do differently and why?
In the past semester, what is the biggest challenge you have had to overcome, and what did you learn? Address academic, social, emotional, and physical – or at least two of those four.
How do you want to be different four months from now than you are right now? How would you like to grow or change as a student? What do you think you can do ( specific actions) to help you achieve your goal?
I’m currently reading these pieces they have written and my next post will be some of the wisdom my students have gleaned through the process of reflection. Then we will get on with resolutions and goals for the new year.