We love January! The new year brings with it the opportunity to reflect, reinvent, and set new intentions. Although in the education space, August and September are the beginning of the (academic) year, January and the new calendar year provide a wonderful mid-way stopping point to assess and make changes in the classroom. We've put together 5 ways educators can get organized for success in the new calendar year.
1. Reevaluate Your Space
Oftentimes teachers return from winter breaks to slightly disheveled classrooms with leftover remnants of the holiday "chaos" that ensued right before break. The start of January is a great time to examine your space, rearrange desks and other classroom items, get things better organized, clean surfaces, etc.
If you have students with learning differences or emotional needs, it is also a good time to reflect on whether or not the space is working well for those students.
2. Set Intentions With Your Students
Goal and intention setting is one of our favorite start of the year activities. We suggest setting aside time at the start of January to reflect on the first part of the year and create goals for the second half. Students can do this individually and as a class as well.
One of our favorite goal setting activities is to fold a long piece of construction paper in half (hot dog style) and cut four tabs. On the front tabs students will decorate
2 0 2 3. When they lift the number they will have goals listed that correspond with the number. Example:
- 2 Things I'm proud of from last year
- 0 Something I want to delete from this year
- 2 Things I want to work on personally
- 3 Things I want to work academically
3. Review Student Learning Plans
The new year and midway point is also a great time to review student learning plans, whether they be informal or formal IEPs and 504 plans. Make sure you review the recommended accommodations and modifications and reflect on how they have been going. Oftentimes in the day to day stress of the school year, it is easy to forget all the things in the documents. This is also a great time to touch base with any specialists who work with the student and discuss how things have been going.
4. Reflect On What's Working and What's Not
After four or five months of school, you have gathered enough data to assess how things are working both organizationally and academically. Are your data, record keeping, and organization systems working? What went really well that you can recreate? What was a disaster that you can learn from? Reflection is many times the first step in growth and change.
5. Focus on Your Own Needs
We know teachers are tired of being told to focus on "self-care" as if doing a little more yoga is going to fix all that's wrong systemically that adds to teachers' daily stress. That being said, January offers a great time to set personal goals for maintaining mental health and work-life balance. The January through March stretch can be a long, cold period of time with very few breaks. Planning time and activities for yourself can help alleviate some of the hardships of this time.