Now is the Time for Change | Ep. 188
Now is the Time for Change | Ep. 188
Change is a word that often stirs concern and worry. Even if you are told that it will make things better, you have a bit of resistance because it is coming from an external source. How many times have teachers been asked to expect a new approach or curriculum after summer break? I have often observed that school systems work on a 3–5-year plan. Teachers are given a new curriculum or a schedule, receive a lot of training in the “new” method, and work hard to master the new approach. Then after 3-5 years, another administrator or school board takes over and proposes a new approach which starts the cycle over. That is forced change and you often have little say in how it will be implemented. That is a way of life as a teacher. However, I want to discuss self-motivated change; personal improvement that you take responsibility for and set personal goals to help you improve as a professional. If you are going to change, you have to have time to think and contemplate. It is impossible to change much during the school year because you are not in a personal growth mode. During the school year, you come to school, plan your lessons, deal with faculty meetings, supervise recess, clean your equipment room, and oh yes, you teach all day. Then, after school, you may coach or do afterschool activity programs. Where, oh where, are you going to find time to change? That is why I feel that when we get close to the end of the school year, it is prime time to think about personal and professional goals you want to make. If you wait until the end of the summer, all the angst and stress you felt about things at school will be forgotten. Now is the time to make a list of a few key things you would like to do differently. This will give you time to make plans, develop small incremental goals, and implement your changes next fall. There is an old saying in education that some teachers have taught for 20 years but only have one year of experience. The point being that if you don’t change and grow from your teaching experiences, you are bound to repeat the same mistakes over and over. Once you enter the teaching activity area, very little feedback comes your way. In fact, most experienced teachers are only evaluated and offered strategies for instructional improvement once or twice a year. Self-improvement is the cornerstone of great teaching. You have to want to be better today than you were yesterday. So, let’s look at a strategy for change: Decide what personal changes you want to make. If you have specific outcomes, you have talked or contemplated for some time, those are probably a good place to start. Here are examples I have often heard from teachers. The best things to plan on changing are those that are unique and important to you. Self-growth is about you, not what someone else wants you to do. Write and develop some new lessons and units. Develop ways to work with students in a more constructive manner. Create a monthly newsletter to students and parents about PE and the need for physical activity promotion. Find ways to raise funds for physical education equipment. Change the way I plan and structure my classes, so I am not teaching the same way I did last year. Take classes to better understand the needs of my students Focus on a specific issue such as bullying, social-emotional issues, or health/activity issues. Create your plan for self-improvement. Pick a major change you want to make and then break it down into small goals. This is where SMART goals are useful. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and within a Timeframe. Smart goals have been around for many years but recently have enjoyed a renaissance. A couple of books might be helpful to you. I would recommend How to Change by Katy Milkman or Atomic Habits by James Clear. Clear’s subtitle is “An easy & proven way to build good habits & break bad ones”. Both books recommend plans and examples of how to accomplish personal goals. Manage your time effectively. It is easy to say, “tomorrow I am going to start developing my personal goals”. Remember that tomorrow never comes and it is always a day away. The hardest part of making any change is getting started. We can sit and contemplate for hours and never accomplish a thing. Set aside time each day and force yourself to sit down and start writing down the steps you want to take to accomplish your personal changes. Break it down into chunks and small steps. A large overarching objective will stop you in your tracks – it will seem so big that it intimidates you and makes it appear to be an impossible task. Small chunks will seem within reach and something that you can do over time to accomplish your larger outcome. It is very much like fitness. If you want to get fit and lose some weight, it will require a plan that takes many workouts and days of effort. The hardest part of losing weight is getting started. Measure your success and celebrate. If you have chunked your major outcome into smaller goals, make sure you know when they have been successfully accomplished. Set aside time to work on your goals whether it is taking a class, exercising, seeking funding, or writing new instructional materials. Monitor and record each time you find success and celebrate yourself. We often spend too much time getting after ourselves when we fail or don’t reach a goal. Turn it around and decide how you are going to celebrate each time you make some progress toward your personal goals. There is no greater satisfaction than accomplishing personal change and reaching meaningful goals. External pressure to change doesn’t feel nearly as rewarding as changing because you want to change. The most satisfying accomplishments are those that are driven by your internal drive and motivation. Great teachers are self-motivated to become the best they can become. No one can push you to greatness. It comes from that intrinsic motivation to excel. Now is the time to get started!! Thanks for being teachers. Believe in yourself!