Upon Reflection: New Year’s Resolutions

Soren Kierregaard, Danish philosopher, said, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward.”  To live life with any understanding at all, then, we must occassionally pause and look behind us. We need to reflect on where we have been, what we have done, and how that might shape us going forward.  Then and only then can we make wise choices going forward.   After writing last week,  New Year’s Reflections , about the value of reflection before making New Year’s resolutions, I have now had the pleasure of reading my students’s papers and seeing what reflections and resolutions are on the minds of the high school freshmen at the midpoint of their year.

Looking cool, managing others’ impressions of themselves, and worrying about their ‘image’ is  a recurring theme. Here are some excerpts from their writing:

During my first month of high) school, I felt like the character portrayed by Clint Eastwood in the movie A Fist Full of Dollars, when he first entered the corrupt western town. In other words, I had no idea how to handle myself, yet I strived to look cool throughout all of its entirety. After a few weeks, and some minor setbacks, I had finally learned the ropes to this new reality.  ( JS) 

If I were starting ninth grade all over again, I would stop being so worried about what people think and do what made me happy. I became so consumed by what others thought of me that I forgot to see what I thought of myself.( MS) 

It is pretty funny how such a trivial thing like the lunchroom could have intimidated me the way that it did. ( SN) 

The lunchroom seems to be the  defining social hurdle of the day for freshmen in high school.  Getting to the ‘right’ table, finding a friend group,  getting a seat among that group, and gaining proximity to other cool people at nearby tables all have to be negotiated while getting a noon meal.

Time management is a second common subject among these young people.

My best decision was deciding to do my homework and any work associated with a class, my worst decision was doing the homework the night before it was due. ( EP)

When I look back, I also see how I have come to understand the value of hard work. (SN)

The biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome was managing my time with homework. My daily after school routine was wasting a few hours watching Netflix, checking social media, and rushing to finish my homework before midnight. As a result, my homework was usually sloppy and half-par, and I was exhausted at school every day. I learned that I am bad at time management and that I am good at procrastination. ( MS)

The best decision I made in the first semester was reading To Kill A Mockingbird. The test was easy to me when I studied and read the book. The worst decision I made in the first semester was not putting forth the effort towards my grade until it was too late. The differences in these decision were that I could have ended up with As and Bs. Instead, I ended up with As, Bs, and Cs.               (Anonymous)

Who would have guessed it?  Reading the novels actually helps in English class and not waiting until the last minute to study or do homework is a good idea, too.  Like the old adage says, “Wisdom is gained from experience, and most of that bad.”

Changing social habits and pushing themselves to new limits are also prevalent in their writing.

One good decision that I made this year was a little bit of a challenge at first. This was my decision to be more social and not be so shy and quiet. Up until this year, I was really quiet and I didn’t really go out of my way to talk to people. This year, I tried to be more social and actually talk to people who I really didn’t know that well. It has made school way more enjoyable. ( BR)

Another thing that ninth grade has taught me is how to push myself harder physically.  Football workouts have been very demanding.  We’ve done everything from lifting weights to running six hundred yards with another guy on our back.  Football has shown me how much my body is capable of not only physically but also mentally.  I’ve learned how to push through pain and weariness to get the job done.  I know that no matter what life throws at me, I’ll be able to deal with it. ( Anonymous) 

I was pleased with the quality of thinking and writing that went into this assignment.  With good reflection behind them, my students now stand a chance of keeping some of their New Year’s Resolutions.

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