New Year, No List

What everybody does has not worked for me

My neighbors do it. My family does it. Many successful people do it, too. I, however, have given up doing it.

It’s not that I can’t do it, for I’ve done it with as much gusto as many others have then and since. It is that I find the whole idea of it ludicrous because I find no pleasure in it. There’s nothing pleasurable in making a list of things to accomplish, AKA New Year’s Resolutions, only to have that list dwarfed by the overwhelmingly brute power of procrastination and laziness. In the end it makes me more desperate.

We didn’t renew our involvement the following year, and I haven’t done so since.

I remember the first time I made a list in earnest. My family and I decided we’d formalize this and up the ante. We wrote down our resolutions, put them in a time capsule, and vowed to open them the following New Year’s Eve, bringing with us the decided amount to be paid as penalty for not accomplishing our goals, otherwise known as the Grand Prize. It was fun while we were writing them, but by the end of January, all but one of us had abandoned working to fulfill our goals. We didn’t renew our involvement the following year, and I haven’t done so since.

Each of these is as unrealistic as any other such goal…

It’s been a number of years since I have made specific plans, opting instead for the usual semester-based list of goals I want to accomplish. Each of these has the standard amount of blowing smoke, or goals I include to not admit my failure at each. The most recycled ones have included:

  1. Losing weight
  2. Getting healthy
  3. Saving money
  4. Paying off all debt
  5. Clean the garage
  6. Spring clean house

Each of these is as unrealistic as any other such goal because in order to accomplish each of these, I would need a subset of mini-goals. Take the first one. In order for that to be attainable, I would have to adjust my schedule to exercise, save money to join a gym, or even plan my diet and shopping in order to make it happen. The second would read more like a laundry list of medical diagnoses and interventions that could dwarf the first. Saving money, then, would take on other dimensions. You get the picture.  A more realistic list of goals would look like this:

Losing Weight

  1. Don’t drink sodas
  2. Drink at least 64 oz of water
  3. Substitute white bread for wheat bread
  4. Include more fiber in my diet
  5. Sleep early
  6. Walk on the treadmill for 15 minutes BEFORE going to work

I am not going to go through each of the original list of resolutions, but you can see how each of these resolutions can make the list grow almost exponentially. In the end, I stopped trying to make a list and simply decided that if I needed to make a change, January  1st would be the day after my realization of needing change and deciding I would actually do something. So, New Year’s for education happened back in early November. That day in November, I decided that I would do all I could to go to grad school, even if I’m not accepted. What has changed, then? My mindset has changed.

My mindset has changed.

I had an interesting conversation with someone today, and it was centered on being accepted to grad school. If the school of my choice accepts me, it would mean leaving my family behind, husband included, and moving to another state, a cold one. If I want to create a mindset leading to success, I may have no option. Perhaps it is in this abandonment of imaginary lists that I have attained the will to move in the direction of change, further change. I’ve spent a lifetime living the Disney idea of womanhood, battered into my inner consciousness through countless hours of exposure to dreams fulfilled by others. I want out of that insanity. I need to stand on my own two feet. And as a person whose favorite Disney princess is Belle, it is the newest version of her that makes me feel a renewed sense of importance. This Belle, much like the me who wants to be free of all others, is a strong woman with the power of invention.

I’ll begin my list with one task: pray daily.

Today, after having thought about what it means to plan, and after having advised my students for the greater part of this semester about the importance of having a plan, I will make a list of things to accomplish, but I will begin with one single goal. I’ll begin my list with one task: pray daily. That is a goal I can attain and plan on. After this goal, I can prioritize, and I will do so with the belief that one task is enough for a list of goals. I will no  longer hold myself to the laundry list of unattainables.

No more unattainables and welcome the new year.



What Teachers Teach

Teachers, like most other professionals, must go through several years of college and pass various certifications in order to stand before a group of students. Like most other professionals, teachers must deal with the countless red tape and bureaucratic aspects of any organization, but more so because often those under their tutelage are under age. As is the case with any organization, schools conform to a set of preordained requirements that dictate the manner in which said students must be taught, or what they are taught. It is in this realm of restrictions, swimming through strong tides and swells, that teachers must perform a variety of different tasks. They are instructors of new knowledge, scaffolding new learning from previous acquisitions, and must instruct with skill and tact. They must know what to teach, how to teach, and when to teach. At other times, they must also recognize when NOT to teach. It is a gargantuan task for anyone, in particular for those who actually care for those with whom they engage in learning with.

So, what do teachers teach? Outside of the obvious answer—they teach students the skills and knowledge needed to have a broad base of understanding and learning students can apply to further their own cognitive abilities and become citizens of the world, duh—teachers teach people how to BE human. In a nutshell, there are various types of teachers. You have those whose sole purpose is to teach, but without connection. Those are the teachers whose classes you attend, you learn from, and you quickly forget as soon as you are no longer in class.  Then you have another category of teacher whose sole purpose is to inflict some kind of harm—as though seeking their own retribution from ills they suffered at the hands of other bitter or mean people—and conduct class in a manner in which NO ONE would, or could, succeed. It is these teachers we remember all so vividly because of their qualities of a despot (and I’ve had my share of those). These teachers, the despots, are not real teachers. They are tyrants and have no positive impact at all, other than those who then, having suffered through their tyrannical actions, vow to be upstanding and kind. Then, you have another category. This category, which numbers three by my count, but not in any way last, is the category of teacher that stays with us through thick and thin and leaves a mark on our souls. These are the teachers who infect us with the LOVE of learning, leave our learning crystalized in our beings, and push us to be the best we can be. It is these teachers that teach, unlike all others by degree, that we are human first. It is these teachers, who fill not enough of our halls of academia, who leave a mark on our humanities and teach us far more than the basic academic knowledge and skills we must have to thrive in school through graduation. We should all be blessed with these teachers, but the sad fact is that they number few in our society. These teachers

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