Festive traditions come and go, but one that endures for me is the traditional ‘Queen’s Speech’ where Queen Elizabeth (you may have seen her in The Crown) addresses the nation and reflects on the previous year addressing concerns and sharing her hopes for the people for the coming year. Here’s my end of year message to you, in the hope that you’ll make next year your best year ever.
This year, perhaps more than others, I have taken stock of life, reflected on the past 12 months and plan to be more intentional about how I approach the coming new year. Let’s be honest, we haven’t had much control over our lives during the pandemic what with lockdowns, travel restrictions and remote schooling. Instead of rolling with the punches from 2020 (and it punched hard at times), I aim to take more control, be more planned and enter the New Year with a positive state of mind, ready to take on whatever comes my way.
Question: ’What made you happy or brought you joy in 2020?’
My end of year message to anyone who will listen comes in three parts:
- Acknowledge 2020, the good and the bad.
- Reset at home this winter and come back stronger
- Focus on a goal for 2021 and work towards becoming the version of yourself that you want to be.
ACKNOWLEDGE: Before we address the challenges that we have faced, it’s important to reflect upon the positives from 2020. I still have my health, a job that I love, and over the past 8 months have had the chance to spend more time with my family. This far into our pandemic journey we have found a happy medium, and our mental health remains stable. Aside from the occasional tension I think spending time with each other has taught us many good lessons. I have focused on my wellbeing more than in years past and have found ways in which to add meditation and exercise into my routine.
This year also saw the streets filling with people protesting racism, inequity and injustice, and the polling stations were filled with people exercising their right to vote resulting in a change in leadership here in America that has given hope to many.
But 2020 will likely be remembered for the challenges that we faced. Student athletes saw their sports restricted, student performers saw their activities reduced. Physically hanging out with others became a challenge, masks became the new fashion accessory and of course the teaching profession was turned upside down with the challenges that come with remote schooling, hybrid instruction and teaching skills and content in a setting that isn’t the most conducive to learning.
We lost Kobe, the Black Panther, and RBG. Some of us lost loved ones and yet despite ALL of that…here we are!
There hasn’t been a more challenging time for our community, and it’s important for us to recognize that.
We, you, have faced many obstacles, and overcome them. I speak with parents who are frustrated that their child isn’t performing as well as they hoped and my response is always the same. These aren’t the best of times and so I probably haven’t seen the best of your child. Hey, you probably haven’t been at your best as a teacher. We are all juggling the challenges thrown at us and are doing the best that we can.
I think it’s important to address that idea that it’s difficult to be our best when these aren’t the best of times. I don’t want you to compare what’s happening today with pre-pandemic times.
If I get frustrated and am impatient with my family – it doesn’t mean I’m a bad parent or husband.
If I plan lessons that don’t work well with my students – it doesn’t mean I’m a bad teacher.
If students are struggling with motivation – it doesn’t mean they are a bad student.
These are unreal times, so don’t compare them to the real you.
We have proven that we can face these challenges head-on. We must keep moving forward – we haven’t come THIS far, just to get THIS far!
Question: ’ What is one thing that you are looking forward to this winter break?’
RESET: As we start the winter break, now is the best time for you to hit the reset button. It’s time to turn off and turn on again. It’s time to reboot. It’s time to download the update to ‘YOU 2.0’, and there are things that you can do over the next few weeks to ensure that when you return in January you are in your best position to be successful and make a positive start to 2021. I want to share some tips and life hacks that will enable you to do just that.
Sleep – EVERYTHING you do, you do better on a full night of sleep. I’ve blogged about sleep many times, and Better Sleep During the Pandemic has all of the tips that you need to help make sleep your superpower!
Nutrition – The cold months, the holiday months can be times when we might not eat as healthily as we would like. We know that what we eat can shape our mood and our sleep patterns. Eat wisely. Treat yourself for sure, but be mindful.
Be Active – Being active has so many benefits, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a PE teacher. There is a proven link between mental health and activity. Being active looks different to each of us but simply raising our heart rate will flood our brains with the chemicals that make us feel good. If you are active with friends or family members you’ll even feel closer to each other. Living in the MidWest, as I do, means that I often have grey skies and the shorter days have been linked to seasonal depression. Getting outside, getting natural light, has been proven to be a big help with this.
Chill – Teachers have focused on mental health more than ever before and it’s important that you check in with yourself to see if you are feeling stressed and then find your go-to strategies for coping with stress.
Pran Patel wrote a great blog post on #slowchathealth in which he stated “The children we serve deserve to have healthy, well and happy teachers. Self-care is not an act of the self, it is fundamentally an act of giving, it is neither selfish or indulgent, self-care is essentially part of your job and duty to the young people we serve.“
Video games, creating art, listening to music, exercising, writing poetry, being with friends/ or spending time alone are all coping mechanisms that my students recommend. Anxiety and stress can be high at this time of the year, and then we have the pandemic in the mix too. Look after your mental health. Look for things that bring you JOY or HAPPINESS, or bring joy or happiness to others.
Get help – You do not have to do all of this alone. If you or someone you know finds this time of year particularly difficult then there are always individuals and organizations that are there to ease the load. Helping others, and asking for help are both ways in which we can ensure that our community remains as healthy as possible.
Question: ’ What goal do you have for 2021 – how will you make 2021 your BEST year ever?’
FOCUS on a goal: When we first closed schools for the pandemic and sent students home, teachers scrambled to put lessons together and I think we would all admit that they weren’t our best lessons. However, we learned from that experience, changed our planning and behavior, and were more intentional about how we would move forward. We made plans, we set goals, and we put steps in place to ensure that we were successful in the months to come.
This is what I want YOU to do in your personal life. Learn from the year that we just had, make plans and set a goal and identify habits and behaviors needed to have a successful 2021.
New Year’s Resolutions/goals are popular, but many people break those early in January. I want to share an alternative way to set a goal and guide you towards being the person you want to be in 2021. Choose ONE WORD, yes, just ONE WORD. My tip is for you to choose a guiding word that will nudge you towards being an improved version of yourself. Unlike a goal or a New Years resolution, your ONE WORD can’t be broken.
Here’s my example – last year I found myself getting very frustrated with my young family (6 & 8-year-old boys). I would come home from school and a long commute, tired and grumpy. My patience was worn out and I found myself reacting to silly things in ways that I wasn’t happy. My boys don’t intentionally wind me up….but I found myself getting stressed, the heart rate would rise, and I would snap, raise my voice etc.
I chose the word ‘CALM’ as my word of the year. I learned more about meditation and downloaded some apps. I spent more time learning about breathing and finding ways to encourage myself to be calm. The word nudged me, reminded me of the person who I wanted to be. Were there times when I got frustrated and angry? Sure. But the word stayed there, reminding me to focus on being calm. Once my intention was locked down by my #OneWord it was easier for me to put behaviors and habits in place to ensure that I was successful in becoming closer to the person who I wanted to be.
Question: ’ Thinking about the person that you want to be in 2021, what word could you choose as YOUR #ONEWORD?’
So, to wrap things up….
- Acknowledge 2020
- Reset at home this winter and come back stronger
- Focus on a goal/one word and work towards becoming the version of yourself that you want to be.
I wish you and your family a safe, healthy, happy winter break and a wonderful 2021!
Additional reading – 2020 A Year in Review
Additional listening – Health Class Chill, a playlist of chilled vibes suggested by my students
Additional prompts to make next year your best year yet: