Welcome to the new year! As I began writing this article, I considered the traditional “new year” themes, and I realized they may not fit within the school year context. I recognize this is simply a point in time, but the new year is often a time of reflection and a setting of new goals and commitments. I have often felt the sense of a new beginning when a new calendar year starts, but I wondered: did teachers? I sat and pondered whether teachers, smack dab in the middle of their school year, felt a sense of new beginning, or if, smack dab in the heart of winter and the daily grind, they felt the weight of the “middle” stretch? Was the class hitting its stride, or did the break feel like a disruption to all the progress they had made so far?
So, I asked them. And what I found, according to a very unofficial poll of the Abiding Savior Academy teachers, is that they felt a little bit of all of that. Quite a few expressed the idea of a new beginning. Many recognized the need to re-establish expectations from the fall, but were looking forward to the progress that comes in the spring. Collectively, Academy teachers seem to be approaching January as not just a new beginning, but a Renewed Beginning.
On new beginnings:
“New beginnings! It’s a new year and we practice procedures just like at the beginning of the school year.”
“I always try a few things I’ve never tried before in teaching. New approach. New methods.”
“It always seems that after Christmas break students come back rested and ready to learn!”
“I see it as a new beginning after a time of being refreshed. Those days off for break are a time of refreshment that allow me to review and reflect.”
What I found most interesting is the shift they all seemed to connect with this season of time that signals not only a time of reflection, but an intentional looking forward toward what comes next for their students:
“We take a look at what we’ve learned and set goals for the 2nd part of the year.”
“We also start talking more about the future and getting ready for kindergarten.”
“We review expectations but also grow into some ‘bigger’ ones as the kids look forward to being in a higher grade next year. I find myself saying things like ‘When you are a 5th grader…’”
One preschool teacher talked about the difficulty of the month of January, as they get back into the routine, but also the reward that comes at the end of the month:
“January is a “tricky” month in preschool (at least for me). For the children, it is sometimes a month of “re-learning” how to learn! They forget our rules and expectations after the long Christmas break – and are sometimes hesitant to come back. There are four LONG weeks in January… but the topics are fun, and the students are quickly drawn back to the joy of learning (animals in the snow, oceans, penguins – oh my!). By the END of the month, we are seeing a lot of growth and more “readiness” developmentally… which is what gives us as teachers the motivation to keep on going!”
A Process of Renewed Beginnings
The entire school year is a series of renewed beginnings. Students and their teachers are constantly at a place of new beginnings – improving on things they’re learning, being introduced to new concepts, integrating other skills as they become second nature. I have a tendency to think about students in a grade as static points on a number line: 1st grade, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, and so on. But the reality is, each one is on his or her own learning continuum. No two students, even those in the same grade, are in the same place on that continuum. Teachers are meeting each of them where they uniquely are. They are working with each student in countless areas of growth – some excelling at math, some struggling with spelling, some dealing with social anxiety, some not understanding why they can’t talk whenever they want. With every single student in the classroom, every single day. Every single day, student and teacher begin again the work of continuing along the learning continuum – equipping them with skills, encouragement, attention, practice, and all the things necessary to prepare them for the next year, when the process continues once again with a new teacher.
No wonder so many of the teachers talked about enjoying a time of rest and renewal during Christmas break 🙂
Drawn Back to the Joy of Learning
This educational process is not linear or easy, but perhaps these renewed beginnings help foster a joy of learning. The joy that comes from discovering something new, of getting better at something that once was difficult, or from being the teacher who gets to witness these tiny but monumental milestones firsthand, day after day.
Elise serves on the Abiding Savior Academy School Board, teaches logic, and serves as our Communications Coordinator. She has a master’s degree in persuasive writing, a juris doctorate, and is the author of Enough: Finding Abundant Life in a World Striving for More. Her greatest teachers, however, are her husband and their four children.She is blessed to practice what she’s learning about Christ’s love daily with her family in Sioux Falls, South Dakota