Insights, Ideas and Strategies for Educators and for Parents

Choosing a "Year Word" for Teachers and Parents

Woman Contemplating
Tips for Teachers

As I embark on the process of writing my book for early childhood educators, I begin by describing the importance of being a reflective teacher. A reflective teacher is someone who thinks about what she is doing in the classroom, about her interactions, her curriculum plans and implementation, how she communicates with children and their parents, and is constantly examining her own performance and looking for ways to improve when things do not go precisely as planned.

One of the traditions we carry out in our home is one my husband invented over thirty years ago, of choosing one word to have as one’s focus for the year. He chooses his word each year as January 1st rolls around. What I love about a “year word,” as opposed to a New Year’s resolution, is that resolutions have a somewhat onerous, burdensome feel to them. They are something we must change about ourselves, they indicate something wrong with us that needs improving. They can feel oppressive, when what most people want is new opportunities to move forward in their lives and feel that they are making progress in some way. The year word helps people gain that sense of accomplishment.

For example, this year I chose the word “accomplish” as my year word. I thought about the word “discipline,” as I know it will take quite a bit of discipline to actually get this book written within the timeframe I have been given! However, I decided that the word “discipline” tends to have a bit of a punitive connotation, and I wanted to focus on the positive aspects of my task. In choosing “accomplish,” I am focusing on the feeling of satisfaction and pride that arises out of completing an important project. With the word “accomplish” as my guidepost, I will feel motivated and encouraged to stay on task, to keep up with a writing schedule that works for me, and to keep my eyes on the prize of accomplishing this goal that has been a long held dream for me, of becoming a published author.

When my daughter left home for college many years ago, my word for that year was “reconfigure,” as I felt much of my energy needed to focus on how to reconfigure our family as a three person family rather than a four person family at home on a daily basis…going through the process of adjusting to having a child living away from home and all the changes that implies, not just in the relationship with the college student, but also in the three way daily relationship of the rest of the family still living at home.

I am recommending that teachers consider choosing a year word for themselves for the year 2012. This would be a word that would reflect an important aspect of their work in the classroom that they would like to remember, move forward with, and finetune. It could be a word like “empathy,” or “listening,” or “creativity,” or “enthusiasm,” or “patience,” or “respect.” There are lots and lots of potential words a teacher could choose.

And if you feel your professional life is totally in order, choose a word to focus on in your personal life instead, and it will carry over into your work as well, most likely!

I hope you embrace this lovely tradition. It has become a valued, cherished and enlightening part of my life over the past twenty five years or so, when I joined my husband in choosing a year word!

Tips for Parents

Usually when I write this column I do a totally separate, though related, short piece for parents. In this case, much of what I wrote above for educators applies equally for parents, so please take a look at the Tips for Educators, above.

One of the wonderful aspects of parenting as well as teaching is that there are constant, ever present opportunities for growth and improvement. As I wrote about in earlier column, after reflection on our actions with our children, we can choose to apologize if we have used bad judgment or acted in a way we later regret, and we can decide to work on that aspect of our parenting to improve that pattern of behavior. Being a reflective parent is how one can be a truly excellent parent. Thinking about our interactions and interventions with our children is a critical way for us to continue to do a good job as a parent and to work on quality improvement, as they say in the business world!

Through such reflection, this time of year is a wonderful time to choose a year word in relation to our parenting to represent what our focus should be for 2012. What should a parent focus on to guide them toward a more productive, positive, and less stressful parenting experience? Perhaps one has been inconsistent with limits, or too harsh in doling out consequences that don’t always make sense. Perhaps one feels overwhelmed at the demands of three young children and that there seems to never be time for oneself as an adult, to replenish oneself. Whatever one’s situation, it is always possible to move forward and take pride in one’s ability to be reflective and engaged in the process of thoughtful parenting. So choosing a year word in regard to one’s parenting role can be a helpful thing to do.

Again, there are many words one could choose, many of them the same as the suggestions I made above for educators. But truly, each parent must choose his/her own word, one that makes sense for him/herself. Do you want to remember patience or strengthen yourself to be firm? Do you want to think about fun activities and let your creative side come out, or do you want to plan more family social events that all can enjoy? Whatever is your cutting edge for growth, not your deficit, is what you might want to choose to focus on. It could even be “relief,” if what you need is to take better care of yourself so that you can take care of your children with more energy! Finding avenues for relieving stress might be just the ticket for a positive parenting year for you!

I wish you all pleasure, productivity, and joy in choosing and focusing on a year word as a parent this year!

Questions or comments? call Nancy Bruski at (847) 475-1828 or post them on our contact form.