Five Ways to Stay Positive in the New Year

New Year's resolutions should focus on setting realistic goals and nurturing a passion.

By Erin Bailey

1/2 full or 1/2 empty checklist

As far as stressful jobs go, teaching earned a place on more than one rankings list that I checked. Of course, this comes as no surprise to those of us in the profession. Job stress contributes to teacher attrition rates, which averaged 17% nationally in 2011. For teachers with less than five years of experience, that percentage is more than double1.

It’s easy to get swept up in the negative aspects of any job. However, the new year may be an ideal time for teachers to go through the process of reflecting on the positive points of the past year. Before beginning, pledge to focus on what you achieved, rather than berating yourself for any shortfalls. Prior to making any resolutions for the new year, read through the suggestions below. You can also share the following tips with your students. It may help set them on the road to healthy resolutions.

1. Resolve to Treat Yourself in Positive Ways 

Hang up a list of ten positive personal characteristics. Look at them at least once a day. This is something you can do with students to foster a positive self-image. Also, make lists. Instead of a "To-Do" list, at the end of the day make a "Got it Done" list. This helps to keep things in perspective because you can see everything you managed to achieve.

2. Resolve to Set Realistic Goals 

Goals need to be very specific and measureable. “I will eat better,” is harder to keep track of than, “I will eat at least three servings of vegetables every day.”

One reason people fail to realize their goals is because they don’t identify the obstacles keeping them out of reach. Identifying obstacles and having a concrete plan are essential to reaching a goal. This is an important lesson for students, too. For example, getting better grades in math might require checking homework and practicing multiplication facts for ten minutes each night. Start pupils on the path of how to nurture a goal by spending a few minutes each week reviewing the steps they have taken and those they still need tp work on.

Another way to help ensure success is to share your goal with someone else. This will motivate you to keep working to acheive it.

3. Resolve to Accept Help

As a perfectionist, I like things done a certain way: my way. I find it difficult to delegate tasks because I will no longer be able to control the result. What I have found to be effective, is when I make a to-do list, I circle two or three things that I can absolutely hand over. At home, this might include my children folding the towels and pairing the socks. At school, I always have one or two early finishers who love helping with a project. My bulletin board might never win a design contest, but the information is up and current. 

4. Resolve to Schedule Time to Remember Why You Love Teaching

This is important because it’s easy to get bogged down in record-keeping, behavior charts, and grading stacks of long division worksheets. Finding weekly inspiration keeps me focused on the passion I had and want to nurture. Sometimes in the middle of a lesson, I see a light bulb flicker on in my students’ eyes, and I have to remember to savor that moment. Find something that motivates you to be the best teacher you can be:

  • Sit in on a lesson taught by a colleague you admire.
  • Attend a workshop at the library.
  • Watch a video by Joseph Renzulli or Howard Gardener.   

5. Resolve to Remember Who You Are Outside of School

I love to work in my garden, wander around a bookstore, and play bocce ball with my family. Whatever you enjoy, make a date with yourself to do it. Talk about your hobbies at school to model how important it is to have varied interests. Encourage your students in their personal passions to establish healthy patterns for the future.



1 Kain, Erik, “High Teacher Turnover Rates are a Big Problem for America’s Public Schools,” Forbes Online. March 8, 2011.

Further New Year’s Resolution Ideas for Your Classroom 

Goal Setting: Mission Statement

Participants define their goals and then think of what will be needed to achieve them. It is perfect for eighth grade and up. If used with eighth graders, have students focus on a short-term goal and several long-term goals they can carry with them to high school. The plan utilizes movie clips and tips from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families.

The Expert Game

Typically, teachers spend time on getting-to-know-you activities in September. However, January is a good time to revisit special hobbies that students in the class might have. This idea combines lessons in developling a healthy self-image and public speaking. For younger grades, this is a winner!

New Year's Resolution Worksheet

Using this worksheet, younger children can learn how to set a goal and achieve it. After identifying a specific goal, participants answer a series of questions that lead them toward the steps necessary to reach their goal. Some questions may need to be tailored to the age group being addressed.