As the year draws to a close, many of us might take time to look back and take stock of what we have done in the year. It may be tempting to dwell on the negatives and blame ourselves for what we didn’t do and what we could have done, overlooking the plenty of positives that we’ve been conditioned to not give ourselves credit for. Instead, try this year to spend some time reviewing the good you’ve done or the things you’ve achieved and give yourself that much-needed pat on the back.
Here are eight questions that can help you consider how you've spent 2018:
Did you try to expand your knowledge in anyway this year?
Perhaps you read an article or a book about teaching, or subscribed to another educator’s blog. Or maybe you attended a teacher development session at your school, went to a conference, took part in a webinar or signed up for a course to improve your teaching skills. You clearly understand the value in continuingly developing yourself professionally and not remaining dormant. So give yourself a pat on the back for your thirst for learning.
Did you try something new this year?
What did you do that took you out of your comfort zone? Maybe you attempted a different method of teaching from what you were used to. Or you might have incorporated into your lessons a new teaching tool or piece of technology that you had never used before. Or perhaps you took on a course that you had never run before. Experimentation and trying something you are not as familiar with can be nerve-wrecking and takes guts to do but can be so fruitful and exciting. So give yourself a pat on the back for being brave enough to give the unfamiliar a go this year.
Did you have any challenging situations you had to deal with?
It could have been an issue with a manager, colleague or a student. What decisions did you have to make and what actions did you have to take to resolve it? Were you happy with how you managed the situation? What did you learn from it? Dealing with challenging situations can be tricky but these experiences can teach us so much about ourselves and how people behave. So give yourself a pat on the back for the tricky decisions you’ve had to make.
Did you learn from any of your mistakes this year?
While practically everyone makes mistakes, not everyone learns from them. As teachers we know that mistakes are an important part of learning. We tell our students that they need to make mistakes in order to learn. But how much of that advice do we take for ourselves? How hard were you on yourself the last time you made a mistake? Remember that we can’t grow if we are constantly fearful of mistakes. So give yourself a pat on the back for the courage to make mistakes and the wisdom to learn from them.
Did you contribute to your industry this year?
How did you give back this year? Did you connect with other teachers and support them in their development in some way? Did you stand up for your beliefs and debate about how things are done? Did you share your knowledge and reflections via a teacher training session, a conference talk, an article or a blogpost? Did you volunteer to help with something that could benefit others? Whichever way you’ve chosen to do so, your actions have triggered a wave of change. So give yourself a pat on the back for making our industry a better place.
Did you do something at work that made you happy?
Was it when you solved a problem? Or when you created a new course or lesson plan that worked well? Or when you successfully organized something for your class or your colleagues? Or when your students felt comfortable enough to experiment with language in the classroom and you knew it was partly due to the learning environment YOU helped create? Or was it simply when a student came up to you and said, “Thank you very much, that really, really helped me,” complimenting you on something you hadn’t even noticed was important. If this applies to you, give yourself a pat on the back for recognising all the little things that make you happy, for the happier we are, the better we can be for the people around us.
Did you spend some time this year helping someone out?
It might be a student who needed extra guidance or a listening ear or it might be a colleague who needed some advice or for you to share your lesson idea. You didn't need to dedicate this extra time to do this. You could have used the time to sort out your photocopying, have a more relaxed lunch or get home earlier and watch some Netflix. But you chose to give them a bit of your time and attention and perhaps learnt a little yourself in that process. So give yourself a pat on the back for being generous at your workplace, and contributing to building a culture of care.
Did you take some time off this year to completely switch off from the world of teaching?
Some people believe that good teachers are teachers all the time, and not just when they are in the classroom. Because we’re dedicated to what we do, some of us might find it difficult to switch off. Yet, it is necessary for our minds and our bodies to take a break and have some psychological downtime. So what did you do to have some down time this year? Did you spend some time on a hobby doing something you really enjoy (that is not teaching-related)? Did you hang out with your friends and managed to avoid talking shop? Did you read an article or watch a YouTube clip without thinking, “How can I use this in my classroom”? If this is you, give yourself a pat on the back for being able to give yourself much-needed time out for rest and recuperation.
Often when we think of patting ourselves on the back, we look for big achievements and accomplishments and ignore what might seem like the little things. We forget that all the little things can add up to more than one ‘big thing’ – in fact, if you add them all to your MyCPD tracker (which is free with ETp subscriptions), you’ll be amazed at how quickly it will be populated. And it’s these little things that can help us see how much value we are actually bringing to our industry, our organisations and the people around us.
So go on and give yourself a proper pat on the back. You’ve done good this year!