-by Dan Jones-
Close your eyes, and imagine. Imagine what you want your school year to be. Imagine the best school year you could have. I need you to actually to see it. What do you want your classroom to look like? What do you see your students doing? What do you see yourself doing in your classroom? Don’t picture a moment. Don’t picture a day. Don’t make excuses. Don’t say, “I can’t imagine that much time.” Imagine your school year. Imagine the absolute best!
Most teachers plan for the day ahead, the week ahead and even the unit ahead. But you aren’t most teachers. Today, you are going to become a visionary; someone who not only looks into the days ahead but someone who sees what they want and goes after it with a drive, a passion that is so unnatural that those around you will take notice. Go ahead, close your eyes and imagine. Envision the group space: everything from layouts, creative spaces, to activities that support the individual space. Imagine the relationships you want to have with your students. See the student engagement that will take your class to the next level. This article will still be here when you open your eyes.
Write down what you saw when you imagined the upcoming school year. Sketch it out. Jot down notes. Come back to this article when you finish.
If you can envision the most fantastic school year possible, then do everything now – as the summer wanes – to set yourself up for success. Remember, you may teach your grade level every year, but your students only get it once. Make it the best school year of their educational career. It is essential that your vision doesn’t just turn into “good intentions.” Look at your list. Smile. You have not only seen the future, but you are also positioned to make it happen. Brent Gleeson wrote an article for Inc.com titled 3 Steps for Envisioning the Win and Exceeding Your Goals. In it, he states, “When we envision ourselves reaching goals of any kind, our brain starts finding ways to make it happen.” Your vision will require a few things from you that will stretch you and grow you in ways that may be uncomfortable and yet rewarding all at the same time.
Your imagination has created a vision centered on hard work, perseverance, and a growth mindset even if you didn’t realize it contained all of those. You know what you want, plan for it to happen. It won’t be easy, but those things worth our efforts never come easy. In the article Six Reasons Why Planning Ahead Matters, Kamran Akbarzadeh, Ph.D. quotes Alan Larkin as saying, “Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” You are now poised to make your vision a reality. Here is where the hard work begins. I am sure your vision of the best school year is somewhat different from the reality of the way your classroom is currently functioning. That isn’t to say that your classroom is terrible, but if you are going to create the best school year, you will need to alter some things. Start there. What specifically needs to be done differently? Keep in mind that you need to keep your changes to the things that you can control. We cannot fix our students’ home lives or make their parents more involved. We can’t double the size of your classroom or change your building, but what is it that you can alter to improve what is already going on in your classroom? Look at the notes you jotted down. What on that list is going to take the least amount of work? Start small and work your way up.
Now that you have ordered your list and started to plan how to make those things happen, you’ll want to equip yourself with perseverance. According to Sofia Darsin Calderale, author of The Importance of Perseverance, change is not something that takes place overnight, so we need to stop having those expectations. We need to be patient with the process and be willing to push through the point of discomfort. People who are eager to push through obstacles are more likely to achieve the goals they have set especially when they hold tight to the purpose of those goals. Austin Allison, founder and CEO of dotloop, wrote an article for Inc.com titled The Importance of Perseverance. He states that behind great visions is passion, and it is that passion that will lead to the success of your vision. But as we all know, sometimes things just don’t work as well as we planned. That is when a growth mindset comes into play.
Engaging in a growth mindset means that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Failure is not an end; instead, it is an opportunity to explore a different approach. You imagined the best school year ever, and that vision is near-perfect, but we are dealing with imperfect people and less than perfect work ethics, behaviors, and efforts. You cannot let imperfect define your vision’s potential. The Harvard Business Review Staff wrote the article How Companies Can Profit from a “Growth Mindset.” In this article, they explore how a growth mindset enables people to remain positive in the face of adversity. When your perspective always has a positive slant, it also leads to more significant innovation.
It is easy to be dismissive of the importance of envisioning your school year before you walk into your classroom, but it goes so much further than thinking things could be better than they currently are. James Clear wrote the article How Positive Thinking Builds Your Skills, Boosts Your Health, and Improves Your Work, and in his article, he discusses the effects of negative and positive thinking. Negative thoughts narrow your ability to think outside the box. Your brain is limited to fight or flight responses. Positive thoughts help you to “see more possibilities, broaden your sense of possibilities, and open your mind, which in turn allows you to build new skills and resources.” When you see the best school year ever, you are opening your mind to the positive. You see the potential of what could be, and your plan to make that vision a reality means that you will stretch yourself to develop new strategies and skills.
If you are moving from a traditional classroom to a flipped classroom, it may seem like an impossible task to envision what your new environment will be. But, it is not impossible, and much of the obstacle lies in the fact that educators have never been in such a position to make such radical and significant changes to their classroom or to the way in which students engage with the content. Let go of your reservations. Let go of the way things have always been. Your ability to see beyond your current circumstances is only the beginning of the dramatic changes that you are about to experience.
Close your eyes. See your best school year ever. Envision the changes that you want to make and how you want to make them happen. You are creating something brand new, so be patient – with yourself and your students. Approaching your school year with your vision will help you to do what needs to be done for your students to experience the best school year ever. It is time to put one foot in front of the other and make your vision your new reality.