20 ‘18’ Ways to Start the New Year

Happy (Early) New Year! As you are wrapping up the last few days of 2017, taking in those last hugs, smiles, high fives, and waves for a few days we (Lindsy, Eric, Jessica, Andy, Todd, and Nick) wanted to challenge ourselves, and our PLN, to think about how to ring in 2018 when everyone returns.

This post started as a conversation while preparing for the final days before break. We realized that there is so much time spent on celebrating the last few days before the winter break, but not as much time focused on how to kick off the rest of the school year when staff and students return.


The start of the new calendar year can be an opportunity for us to set new resolutions that will benefit our school staff, families and students. Here are just a few ideas-feel free to try one, or more and let us know how it turns out!

1.Return to Routine. Don’t stress yourself out over break coming up with new things and ideas to start the first few days back. Instead invest time connecting with students and staff and reviewing routines to ensure the foundation you secured in 2017 is still there to start 2018. (Jessica)

2. Healthy Habit. When setting resolutions for the new year for your students-don’t forget about yourself. Pick one new habit (eating lunch everyday, getting to bed each night, going for a walk/run each workday) and stick to it through February. Once the habit is routine, you have a new strategy for fighting winter blues and supporting your own health. (Jessica)

3. Breathe – There is so many stressors that feel like they are attacking us every day. It is imperative that you have a strategy to calm down and refocus. Consider de-stressing by concentrating on your breathing patterns. This will directly affect your emotional state and the way you view the world around you. Need more energy? Inhale for longer than exhaling (ex. inhale 5 seconds, exhale 4 seconds). Need to relax? Inhale for less time than exhaling (ex. inhale 4 seconds, hold, exhale 6 seconds). Breathe slower to help you calm down when you get stressed. I was a skeptic at first, but it really works! (Andy)

4. The power of personal note (postcard to students, notes to staff or families of staff). I’ve started my day with this practice for the past couple of years. Best. Thing. I’ve. Ever. Done. Paying gratitude to others comes back to you – bigger and better. (Eric)

5. Random Acts of Kindness. Take a day to intentionally choose to be kind to one another. Read a story, have a class discussion or take time to model ways to care for one another. (Jessica)

6. Mindful Moments. Reflecting, refocusing, and self-regulation are great skills to enhance as you come back after a break. At #WoodsonK one of our teachers created this create menu of ideas that we used right before break-and will continue to use after: https://packersintraining.wordpress.com/category/teamwork/ (Jessica)

7. One less thing – Instead of adding to your to-do list and winter schedule don’t invite extras onto your plate. Think of saying “no” as an opportunity to take a deep, much needed, breath. (Lindsy)

8. Something to look forward to – vacation? Conference? Winter break has come and gone; January and February can be long, dark, and cold months (especially here in the midwest). What are you looking forward to? Find something to keep you going. For me, I’ve got a list that continues to grow; professionally, I’ve got ASCD Empower ‘18 in Boston and the National Principals Conference in Chicago. Can’t wait! (Eric)

9. Set goals: As we start a new year, it is important to set some goals we would like to accomplish.  These can be short-term and long-term but the importance is to strike a balance.  Make sure you are setting personal goals as well as professional ones.  Want to get more exercise?  Set a weekly date night with your spouse or significant other?  Schedule monthly adventures with your kids?  The point is, as school leaders, we are usually pretty good at setting professional goals, but one of the best ways to avoid burnout is to have goals that focus on family, friends, and health…make time for you and your loved ones as well! (Todd)

10. Adult genius hour/passion projects – Find something that inspires you. Don’t let mandates run your day. Incorporate a passion to keep things from becoming mundane. I’ve been working and will continue working on empowering our students as social media interns. Figuring this out has been a challenge, which has been fun – and it’s allowed me to spend a lot of time working with kids, which is the best part of being in education. (Eric)

11. Refocus on your ‘why’ – Work isn’t as stressful when it’s something that you love and are very passionate about. This is true for your staff as well, so set time aside to discuss your why, your purpose, and your real motivation with each other. Be specific and let this inspire you. Do this together and share in team or staff meetings. Make posters and have everyone put them up in the classrooms and offices. (Andy)

12. Spend time/work with kidsLet’s be honest…your office is a black hole…it’s where time can get sucked away from you either with paperwork, emails, or parent complaints.  It’s much more fun to be out with kids, whether it be in the classroom or the playground or the lunch tables…the point is GET OUT OF YOUR OFFICE.  Go read to kids, have lunch with them, or organize a kickball game.  Offer to help a teacher introduce a new app or strategy.  Capture the awesome moments in classrooms and share it on social media.  The point is, the emails, paperwork, and complaining parents will always be waiting for you…so go where the adventure is! (Todd)

13. Prioritize visiting classrooms
– When you are making your daily schedule, make sure to literally type/write this time in every day to ensure you do this. If it’s not on your calendar or agenda, then it isn’t really that important to you. Make a point to get to as many classrooms as you can every day. Can’t get to them all? Try 18 classrooms every day for 2018. Don’t just pop in and out, though. Slow down, make personal connections, and be present with both the students and the teachers. (Andy)

14. New music playlist – Music makes everything better! The New Year is many times greeted with long dark days. Combat the winter blues and download a new playlist to keep kids and adults spirits high! My newest favorite is Meghan Trainor’s Better When I’m Dancin’. (Lindsy)

15. Making that necessary change – Sometimes a little change is needed other times it is something BIG.  Reflect on the change that needs to happen for you or for your kids.  Sometimes the smallest change can improve your health, your wealth, your mindset or even a kid’s life.  The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates (Nick)

16. Getting Ahead of the Winter Blues – 
In my town they put on a great event called “Beat the Bitter”.  We live in Iowa and this is outside in February.  People play kickball, run a 5k obstacle course, have Snuggie Crawl to local establishments, and even jump into frozen ponds. (I did this last year. It was COLD.) The purpose though is to escape the routine of winter and be out with friends and having a good time.  Get out of the house and find opportunities for Joy. (Nick)  

17. Welcoming Kids Back – Many kids need special attention and love after a weekend, but after an extended break they need it even more.  Don’t start the first day back reviewing rules.  Find a way to show your kids you care and that they are loved. (Nick)

18. Cover a class – This serves two major purposes: first, it allows you the opportunity to connect with kids in a meaningful way and reminds you of what it means to be a teacher.  Second, it allows a teacher an opportunity…to observe a colleague, work on a passion project, or get caught up on grading.  We would give away GOOSE (Get Out Of School Early) cards as part of Twitter challenges, raffle prizes, etc.  The best part is that they are free and allow that teacher to take care of what they need to take care of! (Todd)

Posted in Guest Posts, Leadership Lessons