Strictly speaking, if you want to make a change to your life, or the way you do things, you can do it at any time. Time, and the calendar that represents it, marches on regardless of what you’re doing. You won’t be stopped from mixing things up because you decided to do it on, say, June 14th at two in the afternoon.
But human beings are nothing if not creatures of habit, and routines tend to have momentum behind them. So it can feel strange, or uncomfortable, to try and shake things up on a random day. This is why moments such as the start of a new year are an excellent opportunity to make changes. They provide a jumping-off point which feels more natural to our minds, which ascribes significance to these moments in the first place. The new year is a great time for you and your students to make decisions about goals and targets. The Christmas break provides an excellent opportunity to draw a line under the previous term and make a fresh start.
To begin with, it’s important to set the tone for the new term, especially for younger students. Since long breaks from schooling can lead to a certain amount of learning loss, a more relaxed start will help to get them back into a work routine with minimal resistance. By contrast, immediately giving them challenging work to do will see many of them struggle, which will sour their attitude towards learning going forward. So, why not start the new year with lighter activities, like having a class discussion, to get them in the learning mood? And, while you’re setting the tone, you should also set some goals.
Getting your students to set goals they wish to achieve is an important thing to consider because it strengthens their motivation. Because, by setting their own goals, they’re taking ownership of their learning. And it’s far easier to get engaged in tasks you feel like you’ve chosen to do. And a point like the start of term is the perfect time to do so.
So far, we’ve just been talking about the start of the year as a good time to make changes with regard to your students. And that’s certainly important; you can’t be a good teacher without focusing on your student’s needs. However, it should never be forgotten that being a teacher is a job that keeps you busy. And it’s also a job where you can feel pressure to ignore your own wellbeing. Now, I’m certainly not going to patronize you by explaining why neglecting your wellbeing is a bad thing. Instead, I’ll simply point out that you should also take advantage of the new year to be kinder to yourself if you’ve been pushing yourself too hard.
It’s hard to tell what a new year will bring; we’ve certainly had some wild ones in recent memory. But, hopefully, you’ll be able to use the new term as a starting point for great things for both you and your students.