Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Resolute Resolutions

Over the Christmas break the School Accountability Report Cards will show up in mailboxes all over the country. Districts report on individual school test scores and other key performance indicators. The idea is to communicate to parents how they’re doing with their “new year” resolutions.

Educators make “new year’s” resolutions not once, but twice a year. Since the school year is broken into two semesters, there’s an opportunity to wipe the blackboard clean and begin again even in January. Teachers and students are encouraged to make personal and professional goals for the coming year. School officials at district, state and even federal levels all resolve to do a better job.

We all know that making resolutions and keeping them are two different things.

Every January for more than 4000 years, dating back to the Babylonians, people have been making New Year’s resolutions – we’ve been resolving to be better for a long time. There’s hope in the making of resolutions. Unfortunately, there can also be bitter disappointment when they’re broken.

People all over the planet resolve to eat better, spend less, save more, be kinder, see their families more and basically get their lives in order.

Schools are no different.

According the Gotham Gazette, resolutions for New York City Public Schools could include reducing truancy and improving attendance, having a meaningful public recruitment campaign for new teachers, and expanding the awareness of the city’s successes the school system has already had.


Educators have also developed some resolutions they hope Congress will adopt. The National Association of Elementary School Principals suggests Congress make public education a fiscal priority, make full-day kindergarten a priority, support school leadership, and extend academic help into after school hours.

But what does it take to keep those resolutions?
Personally, it takes someone looking over my shoulder and encouraging me, “So how’s that diet going?” or “How much have you put in your vacation account this month?” I need accountability and support.

So do schools and teachers.

I think the accountability part is pretty consistent at this point. But the support and encouragement part – well, when was the last time you told a teacher they were doing a great job?

Resolution “experts” agree that there are five tips for choosing and keeping promises:
1. Don’t over promise – keep it simple
2. Set out a path – make a plan
3. Set markers on your path – reward yourself along the way
4. Tell people – don’t keep your resolutions a secret
5. Don’t give up! – forgive yourself if you fail and move on

As you read those school accountability reports or even your own child’s mid term report card, remember these five tips. January brings with it a chance to start again with a clean slate. Help your children make resolutions about their learning and support them along the way. Support your child’s teachers by forgiving their failures and encouraging them to keep going. Give them little treats all through the year for each milestone they reach, whether it’s the end of the grading period, getting through spring testing or successfully navigating a complicated field trip.

Remember their best intentions the next time you sneak that piece of chocolate after you promised not to eat another bite during this new year!

© 2007 Vicki Caruana