Transition is a funny thing. Depending on your personality you may love change or you may hate it. Some people love the challenge and the new opportunities that come with change, others greet change with a feeling of fear and suspicion. Over the years I’ve learnt that things change, but people transition.
Term Four is a time of transition in schools. It’s a time when teachers start to evaluate the year that was and think about transitioning into the New Year. If you’re on a teaching contract at your school, you’ll be thinking about what work might look like next year and hopefully you’re putting job applications out there if you need to. Or maybe you’re in discussions about what class or year group you’ll be teaching next year? Perhaps you’re taking stock of your career and considering a step up or some other form of career progression? Whatever the case is for you, I want to share one piece of wisdom that I’ve always tried to live by: The way you finish something impacts the way you start the next thing.
Sometimes the crossing over part, the transition, can take forever! There’s so much to think about and do, that we can get a little ahead of ourselves and lose perspective and focus. At times transition can seem overwhelming as you consider all the work you need to do to finish the project, the work, the year AND the effort it will take to start all over again. Perhaps fatigue has set in for you? Or maybe you’re a little over it in general? Or maybe you’ve had a great year, but you can’t wait to go on holidays? Now is not the time to let things slide and it’s not the time to check out. Why? Because everything you do now will set you up for your next year! So here are my Six Tips for finishing the year strong.
Declutter. If you take a moment and look around you may notice that a year’s worth of paperwork, projects, resources and generic junk has somehow crept into your classroom and into your life. Term four is a great time to take stock and get rid of some stuff. Decluttering your desk or your pigeonhole can make a huge difference to your state of mind. You make instantly feel lighter, maybe even more productive. I find that the best way to declutter is with a vengeance! If you haven’t used it in three months consider recycling, donating or tossing it. If it’s something you know you’ll use again, find a place for it and store it – otherwise it has to go! Once you start you may find yourself motivated to declutter and organise even more key spaces in your life, that unruly corner of your classroom, the boot of your car, your home office maybe even your wardrobe?
Dump the emotional baggage. While you’re taking out the trash, consider the junk that’s stored up internally. That colleague you can’t seem to get along with, that dominating parent, the student who let him or herself down, that mistake you made, that betrayal. So much can happen in a year, and it’s natural to feel hurt, angry or confused. But if you keep bringing it up in many of your conversations, or if it just feels kind of ugly, I’d suggest you’ve dwelt on it for long enough. Term four is a great time to take a deep breath and let it go. If you can make peace, do it. If you’ve done all you can, it’s time to forgive. I don’t believe that forgiving someone is suggesting that what they did is ok, it just means that you choose to not let it bother you anymore. You’d be surprised at how peaceful and content you feel when you forgive others.
Revisit your goals. Did you start the year with a few goals? Maybe you wanted to get healthier, or you had a habit you wanted to kick? Most people start the year enthusiastic about the changes they want to make in their lives! I wonder how many of those people actually make the time to evaluate how they tracked at the end of the year? Starting (or quitting) habits is hard work, so if you’re not going that well please don’t be discouraged! Now is a great time to remind yourself why you wanted to make the changes you had in mind in January. You still have two months to give it another go! Trust me, finishing with just one more of your goals achieved can supercharge your resolve for changes you want to make in the new year.
Plan your professional development. No other person is going to take responsibility for your career and development. Taking some time this side of the year to think seriously about your career and professional development will ensure that you’re ahead of the game come next year. Consider where you’re going and come next year you’ll be on the path to your career goals. You may want to update your resume, plan which courses you want to do or start a conversation with a teaching mentor about what you need to do to get that next promotion?
Be kind. Do you know any people who are always thinking about others? They remembered to ask you how your grandmother was feeling after the surgery or how the renovation’s going. They’re never too busy to chat and they always seem willing to help. Then you have those people who constantly complain, always talk about themselves and never think of others. The end of the year is a great time to think about what kind of person you want to be more like and adjust accordingly. No matter how big or small, make it a priority to do something kind for someone else. If you’re feeling ambitious I’d challenge you to SIX acts of kindness before the year ends. Write a thank you card to that person, bring some fresh muffins into the staff room, make it your goal to make the administration staff smile in the morning, acknowledge someone’s hard work… Honestly there are so many things you can do to brighten up someone’s day and you’ll find that you’ve just made your own day so much better too.
Make time for fun. Fun is seriously underrated. Think about what you love to do, what makes you laugh and who you love to spend time with then lock something in that incorporates all those elements. Whether it’s a fun experience to celebrate the end of Term or it’s some activities the whole family can enjoy during school holidays – planning something now will give you something to look forward to.
No matter what kind of year you’ve had, finishing on a positive note can help you to transition into the New Year with momentum rather than having to push through and “start again.”