Secondary Secondary Maths

A Number of New Year Resolutions

It’s that time of year: After eating too much during the festive season I’m back to the gym!

No matter how well intentioned we are, surveys show that people rarely keep to their New Year’s resolutions. The gym is really busy right now, but come March I’ll be able to access all the machines without having to wait. Why? Well, around a third of New Year’s resolutions are given up by the end of January, and overall 80% of people have relented at some point during the year. This is a rather negative viewpoint however. On the positive side people do set goals for the New Year and some 20% succeed in achieving them.

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The most popular New Year Resolutions are:

  • Get fit and go to a gym
  • Go on a diet
  • Give up alcohol
  • Spend more time with family and friends
  • Quit smoking
  • Get a new hobby
  • Fall in love
  • Improve finances and pay off debts
  • Learn a new language
  • Read a book a month
  • De-clutter the house
  • Get a better job

 

The top tips for making New Year’s resolutions stick are to set deadlines, stay positive and go public with your plans.

It is thought that the Babylonians were the first to make New Year’s resolutions and people all over the world have been breaking them ever since! The early Christians believed the first day of the New Year should be spent reflecting on past mistakes and thus resolve to improve oneself in the New Year. This has then evolved into the idea of reflecting on our own self-improvement annually through New Year’s resolutions.

As teachers we reflect on our practice every day.

My Christmas holiday reading this year was the book “How We Think” by Professor Alan Schoenfeld from University of California at Berkeley. This book describes his research on mathematics teachers and their own beliefs around teaching. In the book he suggests that teachers often feel (believe), that they could not teach in a certain way because their students would not be able to learn like that.

Schoenfeld states that teachers’ beliefs in this regard play a very important role in teacher classroom decision-making and he feels this has major implications for professional development. According to Schoenfeld:

“Beliefs play much the same focal role that they did in my earlier work. Just as students’ beliefs about themselves and about mathematics shape what they do while working on mathematics problems, teachers’ beliefs about themselves, about mathematics, about teaching, and about their students, shape what they do in the classroom.”

Schoenfeld states that teachers’ beliefs about teaching are key to their own professional development. Yet research shows these beliefs are mainly developed during their own primary and secondary school experiences, and not as part of their initial training or professional development. Often these beliefs are not consciously held and this makes it difficult for teachers to reflect on and change.

So what does this mean for teaching resolutions for the New Year? How can we make sure our good intentions transfer into our long-term practice and we do not give up by the end of January? As teachers can we look back over the past year and reflect on how we can improve ourselves and the way we teach?

Looking at the data on resolutions, maybe the best way to focus change and beliefs is to stay positive, set ourselves deadlines and discuss with others our plans. Just as 20% of us will still be on the treadmill come next December, that amount of reflection about our own teaching could make a real difference for 2015.

Happy reflective New Year

Steve Humble
Newcastle University

Collins Secondary

Collins Secondary is the home of innovative learning resources for all stages of secondary education. We support thousands of teachers and pupils who are using our award-winning materials every day, and provide what you need to enhance the learning experience with our easy to use and flexible programmes.

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