Math = Love: My ONE GOAL for the 2017-2018 School Year

Thursday, August 3, 2017

My ONE GOAL for the 2017-2018 School Year

This post is part of #SundayFunday. New blogging prompts are posted each week by Julie. This week's prompt is "Goals."

I am GREAT at setting goals. Just like I'm great at making to-do lists. What I'm terrible at, however, is actually doing those things I set out to do. I learned a long time ago that it was pointless for me to make a new year's resolution. I never keep them. It probably doesn't help that I always want to have five or six different resolutions.

In year's past, I have set many a goal of what I wanted to accomplish in the upcoming school year. And, when I look back at these goals, I rarely feel like I've met them. For example, I decided last year was going to be the year I embraced number talks and basic numeracy in my classroom. This lasted until October when my SMARTBoard projector broke and wasn't replaced for a month which threw off everything in my classroom. Does that mean last year was a failure? No.

Last month, I started participating in Angela Watson's 40 Hour Teacher Workweek. I've been so inspired by Angela's free podcast, Truth for Teaching, and I appreciate the way her words can make me look at problems in my classroom from a positive, productive viewpoint. Every time she mentioned the program, I would think that it sounded great, but the price tag kept me from joining in. When a new round of scholarships for a free membership were announced, I made a three minute video about why I deserved a spot. I was so excited when I found out I was chosen. I know I spend too much time stressing about school and working on school stuff. This past year I did not do a good job of work/life balance at all. This year I am determined to do better.

Actually, I'm determined to do better at a whole bunch of stuff. But, instead of making a list of all that I want to do, I am going to choose ONE word to embrace as my goal for this school year.


So far, my main takeaways from Angela's program haven't been super-productivity tips. Instead, she has given me permission to work through things at my own pace. She is constantly reminding us that we don't have to read and apply every bit of advice. We just need to find one idea to implement. When we're ready for more, the information will be there waiting for us. Perhaps the biggest change has come to how I approach my to do list. I am the queen of the multi-page to do list that could never get finished in a million years. I'm also the type of person who gets so overwhelmed by said to do list that I make new to do lists with some of the same items on them. Soon, I find that I can do a task and find three or more to do lists to mark it off on. This has changed, however. I now keep one (doable) to do list for the day. At the end of the day, I give myself permission to move the items I didn't complete to the next day. Then, I mark a huge X through that day's list. Does it matter that I didn't finish everything I set out to? No. I give myself grace and remember that there will be a tomorrow. No guilt. Just grace. 

This summer, I had plans to write my own chemistry curriculum. I started writing a list of SBG skills. Then I stopped. I tried starting again, but I quickly realized I'm in over my head. I am not a chemistry teacher. I haven't taken a chemistry class since AP Chemistry in 2007-2008. I know just enough chemistry and a whole lot of math that allowed me to pass the chemistry certification test this spring. I do love chemistry. I even considered majoring in chemistry at one point in time. After a few conversations with my husband this summer, I've decided to give myself grace. I won't be doing SBG this year in chemistry. In fact, I won't even be writing my own tests. I'll be using the tests provided by the textbook company. Does this go against everything I normally stand for? Yes. Hello, I'm teaching from a textbook. (We will still be keeping our own interactive notebooks. Don't worry about that!) But, as a first year chemistry teacher, I am giving myself grace. 

Instead of beating myself up, I will make grace my theme. When I try to do it all and fail, I am going to give myself grace. When my desk gets messier than I'd like, I am going to give myself grace. When I break my daily blogging streak, I am going to give myself grace. When I forget to take a picture for #Teach180, I am going to give myself grace. When I have a much needed venting session with a coworker instead of being productive during my planning period, I am going to give myself grace. When I hand out a worksheet instead of an interactive activity, I am going to give myself grace. When I have a rough day and eat an entire bag of chocolate, I am going to give myself grace. When I reuse an activity from last year because I don't have the time or energy to update it, I am going to give myself grace. If my classroom isn't perfectly decorated before school starts, I am going to give myself grace. 

Last year was, by far, the hardest, most miserable year of my teaching career. I spent most of the year frustrated and stressed. This year WILL be better. 


  1. I got overwhelmed by my to do lists, and depressed that I had almost the same list every day. I finally decided to make "got done" lists instead of "to do" lists. At the end of the day I would make a list of everything I accomplished that day. This helped me focus on what I did do instead of what I didn't do and I could be proud of what I did get done. I also used as a journal of sorts.

  2. One thing from Angela's podcast that stuck out to me was to lower your standards at home for chores and cleaning. Your home needs to be livable but not spotless. That perspective helped me let go of some things and give myself grace.

  3. I love this goal, and something many of us teachers could focus on more. I burnt myself out completely the first semester i had my own classes, and I'm still trying to recover! I'll be stepping back and supplying for a while unti I get my feet under me again.

  4. Sarah, I found it interesting that you felt miserable and stressed last year. It never showed in your blog! I also teach high school math at a small, rural school but in neighboring Texas. I have read your blog for several years and admire you greatly. I have incorporated many of your ideas and suggestions in my classroom. While you may be working toward grace this year, please remember many of us are working to accomplish a fraction of what you already have!

  5. Sarah - Congratulations on investing in yourself by doing the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club with Angela! I joined last summer, and found it very helpful - so much so that I joined the Graduate program. She's wonderful at encouraging participants to find what works for you and do that - and to give yourself permission to not do it all.

    I second Donna's comment - and want to let you know that I appreciate you taking the time to blog so often when it was a challenging year. Please know that the lessons and ideas you shared are a huge gift to teachers everywhere.

  6. Sarah - I've often come to your blog when I'm at a loss for how to teach something in my math classes. Your work truly is an inspiration! As I was reading this post, I couldn't help but feel my own stress over my to-do lists lift. Grace is something we all need as teachers, especially from ourselves. I hope you find yourself feeling more grace than stress this year!

  7. Sarah,

    I am so excited for you to be a part of the 40HTW Club! It is well worth the investment (not that you had to make it), but by the end, you'll look back and think to yourself "She only charged that much, for all of this?!" :-) I am now in the graduate program, and I am actually looking forward to the new school year thanks to Angela's consistent reminders of mindset shifts we as teachers can make. When I talk about you, or something I've found on your blog, I refer to you as "my favorite math-blogger". I'll be praying for you this year!