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4 professional learning wishes for the new year

6 min read

Voice of the Educator

This month, SmartBlog on Education shines a light on reader trends, content roundups and expert forecasts for 2016.

2015 is almost wrapped up. For me, it has been a year filled with learning and leading, and in these short 12 months, I’ve succeeded some, failed plenty, and learned quite a bit.

While each calendar year doesn’t necessarily have the same “fresh slate” feeling as a new school year, it provides an opportunity to reflect upon the previous January through December, and then think ahead to hopes for what the next year will bring. Forecasting, in any vein, is good fun, and a great leading point for exploring ideas and initiatives in a new frame. Plus, just like with meteorologists and the weather forecast, there is no real penalty for being incorrect, and if we want our society as a whole to see the importance of being wrong, just as much as being right, then we need to allow for those we lead and learn with to sometimes, “shoot for the moon” and forecast, or dream, for those ideas that they enjoy visualizing or that they feel strongly about.

With that in mind, and imagining as if 2016 were a genie in a lamp, and I could extract four amazing wishes from the year (I know, I’m breaking some genie code of honor here), these are my four professional learning wishes for the coming calendar year.

  1. A winter filled with wonderment: One of the toughest parts for me in any given year is the winter months. Here in the northeastern United States it seems dark constantly (dark when you leave for work, dark when you head home), and even though daylight hours slowly creep back up once winter starts, there’s something about that darkness that makes it harder for me to take risks and to be curious. My wish for this winter is that I’m able to keep the wonder spirit up, and appreciate all the learning opportunities that exist during a season that can often have us hunkering down. I want to curl up with a number of great books, alongside a warm cup of tea, and read. I also want to brave the elements a bit, as often, extreme conditions help us think through situations a little bit differently. Sitting outside on an incredibly cold day might not necessarily be considered “fun” for everyone, but it certainly activates our brains in a slightly different way.
  2. Spring ahead to try something new: As much as I wish I was, I’m not truly an early adopter. Until recently, I tended to be much more of a “first follower” (or maybe second, or third. . . ) than a person first in line. Recently, I’ve made an effort to change that, and have found myself becoming the sharer of interesting products and tools, rather than the person those tools are being shared with. There’s an important piece to existing in both roles. When we’re a first follower, we can use the learning of that initial adopter to help us make better decisions. And, when we are that first user, we have the privilege of making those initial mistakes, and being the first to learn from them. My wish is to push myself to try even more new tools and new practices, take even more positive risks, and boldly go where no me has gone before. I know it’s the wrong franchise, but with the new Star Wars film out, I’m dropping any sci-fi reference I can these days.
  3. From summer slide to summer sprint: Summer always seems to be both very short, and very slow. And often, the slightly slower pace of work in my agency leads me to slow down as well. I take more time to reflect, and generally, take more time to accomplish tasks. This is neither good nor bad; it just seems to be how my work ethic ebbs and flows with the seasons. What is fascinating, though, is that the slower pace of the summer should allow me to move even faster through important initiatives, including my own learning. My wish for the summer is that my learning will go just as fast as it does throughout the rest of the year, and I’ll learn more, and not less, during those “slower” months.
  4. A fall filled with forward failure: I think I tend to welcome failure the least at the start of a new school year. While I understand the importance of failing, and while I enjoy the forward moving kind, I think I tend to be least accepting of failure in the early months of the school year (and end of the calendar year) because I’m concerned it will leave me starting off on the wrong foot. And yet, those beginning months of the year are the perfect time to be trying new things, experimenting, and making mistakes, if for no other reason than they can help direct my progress as the year proceeds. Assuming that the genie wants to grant me a fourth wish, I would wish for a fall season that provides me with multiple times to fail, and when provided with those opportunities, I jump towards them, rather than leap away.

In a perfect world, these wishes would come true, and if I were to post on this topic again next year, I could regale you with the stories of how they helped make me a better leader and learner.

Like all wishes, though, these come with a cost, albeit a “positive” one. By having these wishes granted, it provides new holes in my practice to fill. So if it is okay with you, I might hold onto that lamp a little longer.

My best for a great start to 2016 and having all your professional learning wishes fulfilled, so you’ll have new ones in 2017.

Fred Ende (@fredende) is the assistant director of Curriculum and Instructional Services for Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES. Fred blogs at, Edutopia and at ASCD EDge.

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