Words are incredibly powerful. String them together and you get sentences, paragraphs, stories, novels, poems, treaties, laws, constitutions. But what happens when you isolate one word? Meaning becomes experiential and personal. Which is why choosing one little word to guide and frame an entire year is extremely challenging and extremely important at the same time.
In 2015, I chose “calm”. This was a nod to a growing sense of anxiety that I was trying to deal with both personally and professionally. In 2016, my one little word was “risk”. We recently received some Arduino kits and I was determined to try my hand at computer engineering and programming. In 2017, my word was “re-engage”, a slight modification of my word “engage” that started off the 2016–2017 school year. I had recently taken off five weeks of medical leave to recover from cancer surgery and need to reconnect with both my colleagues and students.
As the new year loomed, I bit of panic began to set in. What would my one little word for 2018 be? My previous words were so strong. This year’s word had to have meaning. It had to be powerful. It had to last 365 days. Then it hit me. Often inspired by the writings of my Personal Learning Family (PLF), a blog post by Katie Martin (@katiemartinedu) created a powerful moment of clarity. Katie writes about how as educational leaders simply telling people what to do and how to innovate often leads to a negative response. Our colleagues need to see innovation in action in order to affect real change.
In the last paragraph of her post, Martin challenges educational leaders to move others forward rather than “adding one more thing” to their overflowing plate. FORWARD! That’s it. That’s my one little word for 2018. Small but powerful if put in the right context.
But for me, “forward” is going to mean so much more than encouraging affective change. It means moving forward with my team. Recently one of my teammates resigned leaving us in search of not only a new teacher, but the perfect match for our team. Moving forward means that we may not get a perfect match considering the time of year and pool of teacher candidates. Moving forward means making the best of a challenging situation.
Forward also means taking care of my health. With two recent health scares behind me — fingers crossed — I know that more on most likely on their way, as it seems to be with growing older. I’m nearing 50 and, even though the warranty has long run out, there are so many ways that I can take care of me. Eating better, exercising more, balancing work and home.
Forward means further developing my craft as an educator and educational leader to move our students, my colleagues, and our school to places no one has ever dreamed of. Seven years ago, I proclaimed that Knox Gifted Academy would be the premiere learning institution for gifted learners in the world. No time like the present to start making that happen.
Finally forward means not looking back with regrets, but learning from failing and determined to make improvements — both big and small — in all the ways that I help young people navigate the social and academic worlds.
To hold myself accountable to my one little word, I will blog at least monthly about moving forward. I will look for all the ways that I’m moving forward and capture these moments and share on Instagram and Twitter, using the hashtag #ForwardIn2018. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get a tattoo symbolizing this journey.
My #onelittleword for 2018 is FORWARD. I’d love to hear about yours.