Renewal restores our awareness of time and possibility. Teachers are fortunate in that we experience the power of renewal each time we start a new school year. Designer and author Ingrid Fetell Lee notes that renewal brings with it a type of resilience—an ability to bounce back from difficulty and a reigniting of hope and optimism. For teachers, renewal in the form of a new school year can mean an opportunity for restoration and change.
Further Reading: How to Transition to Teaching at a New School
Here are some ways teachers can benefit from renewal, both in their environment and within themselves, this September.
1. Fix What Didn't Work
We all have lesson plans that didn't work as well as we had hoped, projects that definitely needed some tweaking, and assessments whose questions needed reworking. An end-of-the-school-year review can help you identify and fix any problems. Since the pace of schooling doesn't always allow teachers time to stop and immediately correct an issue, keep a notebook handy during the year to jot down exactly what needs retooling, so you can adjust any issues when you have time.
2. Plan Fun Things
Of course, teachers have their curriculum and lessons planned, but what about scheduling some time for students to have fun? This school year, I plan on adding some fun at least a few times a month to the school calendar. This could include playing a game, having class outside, throwing a surprise party, inviting a guest speaker in, making a video, singing a song, or going on a field trip. Doing something fun will add to everyone's enjoyment.
At the end of the year, it's worth taking time to declutter your classroom; this way, when you return in September, your room sparks joy. Start by organizing or discarding paper; move on to books and other ephemera; and don't forget to declutter your inbox and cloud-based storage places. Walking into a classroom that's clean and well-organized will emphasize the beauty and power of renewal.
Once you declutter, decorate your classroom so it is welcoming, representative, and joyful. Keep in mind that with classroom decorations, less is more. Studies have shown students in over-decorated classrooms were more off-task, distracted, and showed smaller learning gains. Focus on age-appropriate designs that empower, inspire, and quiet negative student self-talk. You can restore a dynamic quality to the environment by incorporating Lee's aesthetics of renewal: blossoming shapes such as flowers, spirals, and S-curves all suggest expansion, potential, and growth.
5. Bring Nature Inside
Celebrating the cyclical beauty of nature can be restorative. Pumpkins, leaves, and pine cones in autumn; evergreen branches in winter; and flowers and pussy willows in spring can brighten your whole classroom. While it takes some extra time—especially if you're not in an area where access to these plants is readily available—the benefits make it worthwhile.
6. Be Mindful
A key to the renewal of self is mindfulness—that is, living in the present. The simplest way to be present is by recognizing when you aren't. Because happiness is correlated with communicating with someone you personally value, you should endeavor to renew relationships that nurture both people in the relationship. Adding a support group, system, or person to your life can actually add to your lifespan.
7. Confront Your Fears
Another way to renew the self is by getting out of your comfort zone. You could do this by talking with people with whom you wouldn't normally interact. Or you could practice a new skill, such as taking up a musical instrument or a new language. Getting out of your comfort zone can help you overcome your fears and limiting beliefs by facing them. This can help you embrace your personal growth and find fulfillment.
8. Pursue Personal Growth
Growing as a person through reading, taking classes, attending lectures, or exploring new forms of physical activity can ensure you continue to renew your spirit. Undertaking a pursuit that inspires you—obtaining a master's degree or exploring professional development opportunities, say—can encourage you to be more eager and excited for the new school year to begin.
Further Reading: Hey, Teachers! Here's How to Prepare for a New Year of School
Ingrid Fetell Lee reminds us the beauty of renewal is that it has its own momentum, propelled by the relentless ambition of all living things to endure and grow. Fixing the world may be impossible, but renewing it is not nearly so difficult. "From the seeds of our own joy," Lee notes, "a whole world can be reborn."