FAQ: Maintaining Good Habits?

Aug 30, 2012

Happy New Year, Teachers!

The beginning of the school year often feels more to me like January 1 than the actual January 1. For those of us who live on an academic calendar, this is our time of year to make resolutions: we start afresh, buying new backpacks and planners, swearing we will keep up our healthy eating and exercise routines, and committing to planning ahead.  

Today’s question: I have great intentions, but how do I maintain my good habits throughout the year?

Today’s answer: Oh, boy, people, this is HARD. I wish it were as easy as just giving you a link with nifty technical directions, but this one is DEEP.

I just finished reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. He has many helpful suggestions to identify your “cues” and “rewards” to create effective routines. While I may not stick to a regular exercise routine no matter how hard I try (unless we’re counting lugging a 38 pound two-year-old up to my three story walk-up apartment!), I have observed teachers take a few key steps to keep Together Teacher habits going strong.

  • Find an accountability buddy or group. A group of teachers I know in New Orleans meets every Friday afternoon to complete their Weekly Round-Up . Other teachers I know start every grade level or department meeting by asking everyone to take out the same note-taking sheet. Still others take it to the staff level – for example, principals send out all upcoming dates for the school year all at once, to make for easy, one-time insertion into Comprehensive Calendars.
  • Give yourself a reward. Did you have a week where you avoided Post-It notes or used your after-school time really efficiently? A day when you delivered two positive handwritten notes to students? Then celebrate and reward yourself! When I was teaching fifth grade, I treated myself to a very tasty coffee drink each Friday morning (Whipped Cream Mocha!) if I had completed all of the following week’s planning by Thursday evening. It was a great motivator. 
  • Make it easy on yourself. Committed to bringing healthy lunches to school? Invest in some Tupperware and pack them the night before. Getting really serious about not letting grading pile up? Commit to a time of day and some special pens (see above note on reward!) to make it happen. Trying to write everything down in one place? Invest in an organization system that fits with your natural tendencies, can be easily carried, and is easily accessible. The more convenient you make your habits, the easier they will be to maintain.