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Posts Tagged ‘New Year’

My One Word (2021)

2021 is going to be better than 2020.  I do read all the “good riddance” to 2020 posts, and it is true there was a lot of crappy things.  The horrible toll of COVID on lives and livelihoods combined with a series of other events that seemed to lead to one downer after another.  There were also glimmers of the future.  Like many, I wrote posts about school, and sports, and life in general could emerge from the pandemic not with a return to the way things used to be, but to something new – where the lessons of the last year were applied permanently changing behaviours that never would have changed if not for the pandemic.  I actually considered a word like “pumped” for 2021, but I scaled it back a bit.  I still feel building energy for the year ahead.  

So, that leads into my word for this year – Optimism

This is the 6th year of my “One Word” Tradition. In 2016 I wrote about Hungry and then in 2017 my first post of the year was dedicated to Hope. I feel both words were ones that were good ones for the times they were written. In 2018 I wrote about what I described as my desperate need in my work for Relevance, and then in 2019 it was Delight – a new twist on the power and importance of joy.  Last year my word was Hustle.  Despite 2020 being very different than what any of us would have predicted, hustle really fit well.  It was a year where I worked more days than any year in my life, doing different work than I ever imagined and spent the year creating on the go.  

Optimism is central to so many educators I know.  It really helps define our work.  When asked about how many chances a child has, the answer is almost always – at least one more.  We believe that our efforts can positively change the trajectory of young lives, and that all our students are capable of changing, improving and growing.   To quote Colleen Wilcox, “Teaching is the greatest act of optimism.”

OK, but why particularly this year?

I will start professionally.  We have learned a lot during the pandemic about different ways to deliver education.  It all hasn’t worked perfectly.  And yet, particularly at secondary, new models have seen a lot of positive feedback, and in many cases, created better connections between teachers and students, and greater ownership of students of their learning.  As we likely have more flexibility next fall in how we deliver our programs, we have the opportunity to take the positive learnings from this past year and apply them and hopefully not need to be as rigid with cohorts and other health and safety rules that continue to be in place now.  This is truly the once-in-a-career moment for us as educators to think differently about schooling and not just revert back to the way it used to be, but to take the experimentation of this year and develop new models for the future.  

And personally, this should be the year I finish my doctorate.  I have moved to the candidate stage and I am writing and hopefully soon fully launch into the research.  I have written before HERE about my project, and I am so interested in better understanding the role of the superintendent, and how it is done similarly and differently across the province.  The work will hopefully be a launching pad for conversations around the superintendency.  And maybe, finally, my kids will be able to explain to people what their dad does for a job.

And of course there is COVID.  We are likely in for some dark days still ahead across the globe.  But here comes the vaccine.  I am hopeful my 80-year-old mom is just a couple months away from vaccination and maybe by summer all of us will have this layer of protection.  Seeing the end, even if it not yet clearly defined, bring hope and optimism.

2021 is going to be a really good year.  I am excited about traveling, coaching basketball, going to conferences, watching school events in-person and helping transition child #2 to university.   I am also ready to change and not just go back to 2019.  I love that I walk more, go to fewer unnecessary meetings, and even get a bit more sleep than I did before the pandemic.  

I chose to be in the optimism business – and I have got a really good feeling about the year ahead.

So, what is your word?

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My education colleagues understand that in our business Labour Day is New Year’s Eve.  With the school year starting the Tuesday after Labour Day (New Year’s Day in our world), it is at this point in the year that we do most of our goal setting and resolution making.

That said, I am getting into the spirit of the season for this post.

For my first post of 2016 I am taking on a New Year’s theme and embracing the one word challenge.  What is that one word that best defines your hopes and goals for the coming year?  What word links your professional pursuits to your personal ones?  What one word sums up your focus and direction for the year ahead?

My one word is hungry!

I was searching for a word that was at the intersection of competing and curiosity and landed on hungry.  I also owe my colleague Diane Nelson some credit for the word choice.  One of the books I have enjoyed over the holidays is one she recently gave me – Hungry – Fuelling Your Best  Game by Ryan Walter.

Walter, a former NHLer and Stanley Cup Champion makes the case for being hungry, and staying hungry.  He writes:

Throughout my lifetime I have asked myself to help me stay hungry:  Why not?  Why not play on a winning team?  Why not develop an amazing culture?  Why not create an incredible family?  Why not push to play your Best Game?  Why not live hungry?

I landed on hungry having first considered competing and curiosity.

A recent influence for me is a TEDx Video I highlighted in my last post – Allison McNeil’s Collaboration . . . It Start’s With Competition.  I think we mistakenly believe that in education, with a decreased emphasis on ranking and sorting, somehow we want to compete less.  I want to compete more.  I am teased for my sometimes overly competitive nature, but if anything I want to compete harder this coming year.  I also don’t want us to shy away from building a sense of compete  with the young people we work alongside.

When I think about curiosity I am reminded of my conversations with my friend Dr. Stuart Shanker.  I have written about Stuart’s work and his influence on our schools numerous times including this one recently on the shifts he has influenced in our system.   But it is the conversations we have that I always find so striking.  He lives a life constantly curious.  He is always asking questions when we talk.  Whether it is about video games, sleep patterns or junior hockey – he is relentless in asking me what I think, linking it to what he has heard before and asking even more questions.  I know he does not just do it with me, but with everyone he speaks with.  I often think, how come someone so smart is asking me all this stuff?  Stuart lives a curious life, an ongoing curiosity I want to live more in my life.

So from Allison and competing and Stuart and curiosity I land on hungry.

Walter describes those who are hungry with words like fun, excited, focused, proactive, energized, on top, communicative, challenger of the status quo, listener, informed, open, synergistic, courageous, tribal,winner and motivated. That is a pretty impressive list.

Here is to a year of being hungry.

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