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December 21, 2010 Forget Resolutions! Set Twelve Goals for the New Year By Danielle Mahoney
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    This week is sure to be filled with festive parties, holiday performances, end-of-the-year activities, and seasonal madness. So take a deep breath and spend some time reflecting on all that you've accomplished this year. What was your greatest achievement? Where would you like to go back for a "do-over"? What were your professional goals? Did you reach them? What helped you? What got in your way?

    Since resolutions can be more like wishes that never come true, let's set some solid goals instead, by creating plans for the new year. Then, we can inspire our students to do the same. Use my downloadable template and a few of these tips to get on your way to a happy new year!


    Twelve Grapes . . . Twelve Wishes 

    Back in December of 2003, I was invited to spend New Year’s Eve with a family who had recently moved to the United States from Mendoza, Argentina. I watched as they set the dining room table with pretty dishes, baskets of bread, lots of torrone, and a sprinkling of nuts. New guests arrived as glasses were being filled with cidra, or sparking apple cider. The house was packed with friends and family. Hugs were given along with exchanges of "Feliz Año Nuevo!" or "Happy New Year!" I danced cuarteto, sipped mate (a bitter tea that is sucked up through a metal straw, or bombilla), tried my best to hold conversations in Spanish, ate empanadas and sandwiches de miga to start, and later joined the family at a more formal sit-down dinner.

    Although I felt a bit shy and out of place at first, it was turning out to be one of the best new year celebrations I had ever attended. And then, right before midnight, everyone was served twelve grapes — each one symbolizing a wish for each month of the new year. I was instantly intrigued. (Any tradition that involves food becomes a favorite of mine, but this one just seemed extra special.) I was asked to think of twelve things I hoped the new year would bring. I remember the excitement of having the opportunity to put my wishes out there to come true. There were so many things to hope for!

    So, I thought. . . and wished. . . and ate each grape. The clock struck midnight. The room was bursting with toasts and tears and happy-new-year-kisses, followed by more dancing and eating. The party carried on until the wee hours of the morning. When it was finally time to go to sleep, I lay awake with thoughts of those twelve wishes swirling in my mind. Every New Year's celebration should be that magical. I will be forever grateful that I took part in such a wonderful experience.

    Twelve Goals for the New Year

    I recently thought about this night and about how we seem to make so many wishes for the new year in the form of resolutions. Do our resolutions ever make it to fruition? Or do they lose their magic and disappear from our minds until the following year? So, I was thinking, why not forget about resolutions altogether and turn our wishes into actual plans for the upcoming year? With these thoughts, I decided to create a new tradition: Twelve Goals for the New Year

    As you think about your personal and professional goals, reflect on what's worked really well for you now. What's going on in your personal life that makes teaching easier or more enjoyable? What makes it more difficult? What changes do you need to make to get where you want to be? 

    Then, ask your students to do the same. With their plans written down on paper, they'll return from the winter break with specific goals in mind. That way they'll be focused and ready for a positive and productive year.

    Use these tips to support your students as they create plans that are meaningful to them: 

    • Think about your own personal goals as well as your scholastic or academic goals.
    • Think about different subject areas, such as math, science, social studies, reading, writing, and the arts.
    • Think about your behavior. 
    • What physical activities do you want to increase?
    • What do you want to do more of?
    • What do you want to do less of? 

     And of course, ask yourself, "Why are each one of these goals important to me?" 


    Take a look at my nephew Ryan's goals on the "Twelve Goals for the New Year" worksheet. You will notice that he used some of the prompts above.


    Ryan has a great mix of personal goals, behavioral goals, and academic goals. I was really proud of how thoughtful he was with his plans. (He wants to work on powers of 10 and rounding as well as being independent and respectful?! Wow!)

    Oh, and if you're wondering about Ryan's third goal — "practice punching" — don't be alarmed! He is a student at Tiger Schulmann's Mixed Martial Arts in Astoria. Please don't think we encourage him to go around punching people! (Quite the opposite.) That's where his last goal comes in. He's learning to eat right and to stay away from "junk."

    Taking him to class and watching him train with an amazing sensei actually led me to sign up for classes as well. I've been involved with mixed martial arts since August, and I can truly say that I'm in the best mental and physical shape of my life. If you have losing weight, going to the gym, eating healthfully, staying in shape, building up your self-esteem, learning self-defense, reducing the amount of stress in your life, increasing your energy, maintaining a positive attitude, or any of these types of goals in mind for yourself (I could go on forever!), sign up for a class in mixed martial arts. If you have students in your class with behavioral problems, self-control issues, learning disabilities, discipline problems, signs of ADHD, bullying tendencies, or self-esteem issues, you might want to recommend this type of training to their parents. If you have a Tiger Schulmann's near you, I encourage you to take advantage of a holiday promotion they are offering right now. Tell them Danielle Mahoney sent you!! ;) You'll thank me later! 

    That's it for me this year! I’ll be back and ready to go in January with more booklists, reading strategies, writing lessons, links to great authors and illustrators, and much, much more. If there is something you'd like to see more of, your suggestions are always welcome. I appreciate your comments and all of your feedback.

    Whatever holiday traditions you take part in this year, enjoy. I hope that you will spend your time off relaxing at home with family and friends, recharging for all of the adventures and challenges the new year will bring. 

    Here I am with my twelve grapes, (and twelve wishes) on New Year's Eve in 2008. I'll be sure to turn my wishes into goals this year. Will you?


    Here’s to a happy, healthy new year filled with much love and lots of learning! 

    ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!  



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