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New Year, New Teacher: How and Why to Limit Your New Year Goals

New Year, New Teacher: How and Why to Limit Your New Year Goals

Toss out your expectations to accomplish every goal this year.

It's no secret that teachers are overworked and overextended. Whether you're new to the profession or a veteran teacher, you are asked to create a curriculum, design rubrics, chair committees, conduct workshops, participate in professional development, and obtain advanced degrees.

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Having so much on your plate, however, can sometimes lead to frustration, inefficiency, and burnout. Rather than having a long list of resolutions, let's all strictly focus on one or two New Year goals and let go of everything else.

Warren Buffet's 25-5 Rule

I first realized the importance of focus when my 28-year-old niece told me about Warren Buffet's 25-5 Rule, which helped her immensely at the beginning of her career. Buffet believes that the key to success isn't working on many different projects; rather, it's intense focus on one to five career goals. Every human has a limited amount of energy and time, and you won't do anything well if you spread yourself too thin.

Further reading: 5 Verbs to Set You Up for Success in the New Year

Buffet suggests that you make a list of your 25 career goals. Next, he says, circle the top five goals. You will concentrate on those goals. What happens to the other 20? They go on your not-to-do list.

Learning to Say No

If there is one nugget of wisdom I can impart to you, it's to learn how to graciously say no. Believe me, I know how difficult it is. There are so many opportunities for teachers to contribute to their schools and to advance their careers. But we can't do it all.

One of my dear friends once contacted me about bringing an arts integration project to my school. I didn't want to pass up this opportunity, but my plate was overflowing! My New Year's goal was to not add one more thing to my schedule. Saying no to my friend broke my heart, but I explained my situation to her and put her in contact with art teachers from my school who might be able to take my place.

The Yerkes-Dodson Law

Yerkes and Dodson discovered that increased engagement can improve performance, but if that engagement becomes too excessive, performance diminishes. If a task is too complex, for example, motivation and performance wane.

The Yerkes-Dodson Law also states that "the more creative the work, the less motivation required to hit peak levels of performance." Personal interest in a goal is very motivating. Keep this law in mind when you choose your goal.

Inspiration to Get You Started

Continue Your Education

One of your top priorities as a teacher should be getting the degrees and education that make you more valuable in the classroom. For many teachers, a master's degree fulfills this requirement. Your master's degree can also bump you up on the pay scale—a nice reward for your hard work.

If you already have your master's, you might want to apply for National Board Certification or a certification in teaching English as a second language or special needs students. Figure out your education goal and go for it!

Evaluate Your Curriculum

The stronger your curriculum, the more students learn. Every year, I think about tightening my lessons, but something always gets in the way. This year, my goal is going to be to thoroughly review my curriculum and evaluate what works and what doesn't.

Some of the lessons that I thought would be magnificent failed miserably, while others soared. I need to either get rid of those ineffective lessons or tweak them to be more powerful. This will be the year I make this happen.

Create a New Elective

I'm always trying to think of new ways to "meet my students where they live." I've found that creating lessons around pop culture can help.

For example, I developed a course on The Walking Dead a few years ago. The class enabled me to teach my students everything from international relations to ethics.

My colleague Julianne, a math teacher, felt her students were graduating without knowing how to manage their finances. She created a course around financial literacy to fill this void. Maybe one of your New Year goals might be to create lessons that are inspired by your students' lives.

Learn a New Skill

Many of my fellow teachers are using Google Classroom, but I haven't had time to figure out how it would work for me. I'm also interested in learning how to create online lessons that reinforce student learning, such as mini-lessons on commas or semicolons. A goal like this would positively impact all my students, and they could access these lessons as needed.

Further reading: A New Teaching Path

In the long run, your New Year goals will help you accomplish more because your focus on one or two goals will enable you to bring them to fruition faster and more successfully. Once you have a few completed goals under your belt, you'll realize how important it was to pare down that list!