In a word… What word will you choose for your 2021?

Twenty-twenty-one is here! Hooray, hoorah! Actually, the news so far seems just as glum as last year, and it seems to me that we need more than ever to take the initiative and choose to be positive. The good news is that there’s quite a lot to be positive about so far: new courses at ELT Sustainable; networking and professional support at the TEFL Development Hub; and a fun alternative to a New Year’s Resolutions activity for you to use with your classes (or just do yourself).

I wrote a while back about Owain Llewellyn’s ground-breaking Language Teaching for the Planet course over at ELT Sustainable. I’m delighted to announce that I have joined Owain as co-tutor, and we’re starting the new year with a bang with the first two-week course beginning on 7th January. When I took the course in October it transformed my teaching. As well as exploring how to bring sustainability into your classroom (without sounding like an eco-warrior), you have a chance to work with a diverse group of teachers from around the world. Check out ELT Sustainable for more information, or the upcoming webinar on ELT Footprint on Saturday 9th January at 17:00 CET.

If you’re looking to widen your professional network, talk a bit more about issues which matter to you, or get more support as a teacher, check out the TEFL Development Hub. This group, set up by Simon Pearlman and Teresa Bestwick, aims to give ELT teachers a space to connect, share and develop. There are regular webinars and coffee-break sessions, together with an ongoing discussion on the private Facebook page. Membership is 3€ a month (academies can join for 20€). ELT can seem quite an isolated experience at times, and this has only grown in the past few months. What’s clear is that the folk over at the development hub are just lovely people and being part of The Hub makes everything seem a little less disconnected.  

Over the next few days academies will be gearing up to start the new term and for teachers that means one tricky question: what one earth do you do in the first class back? For lots of us, the answer to that is some type of ‘resetting’ activity. You might ask students to reflect on what they have achieved so far and set targets or an action plan for the coming term. You might do a class on new year’s resolutions. You might just decide that all of this is a bit clichéd – that students have done resolutions to death – and instead just get on with the next unit.

Before you do, here’s an alternative to the idea of the resolution which is both interesting to do and easier to act on. It comes from Sam Marshall, a UK-based artist and printmaker whose Instagram stories are full of interesting ideas, podcasts, books, and delicious bakes. Instead of writing a list of resolutions, you choose a word for the year:

  1. Think about how the past year has been for you. Write some things:
    1. you are proud of.
    2. you could improve on.
    3. you could do differently.
    4. you could keep working on.
  2. Think of something that isn’t going so well in your life right now. What’s a word that is the opposite/a more positive alternative to this? i.e. if you think that fear is holding you back, then the alternative might be fearless or brave. What would you like to do more/have more in your life? Write at least one word.
  3. What would you like to do less/have less in your life? Write at least one word.
  4. Look at your answers and choose three words.
  5. Consider each of these carefully and decide which is the most important. This is your word.

My word is growth. It sums up quite neatly how I want to continue developing as a teacher, a writer, a trainer, a cook, a runner, a friend, and a partner. It has been some years since I last set myself resolutions, often because within a very short time I had forgotten them. The word seems to be sticking, however. Perhaps just having one word makes it easier to remember, and I think the imagery connected with it has created quite a strong impression. My goal this year is growth, and that’s a very positive message to start with. If you decide to use this task yourself or with your students, I’d love to know how it goes. What words came out, and were there any similarities? What’s your word for the year?

1 Comment

  1. My word is RESILIENCE.
    I’ll share with you the two other words because they are related to this one I chose:
    2020 was a year with lots of professional ACHIEVEMENTS. They’re all relevant to my plans and all of them have their role in the long term. However, in order to accomplish these goals, I underwent lots of stress and felt terribly tired. So the other word I thought of was HEALTHIER. This is what I have to aim at this year. As much as I feel broken in so many aspects of my life, I feel hopeful that I’ll find ways to handle things and I really want to strengthen my resilience.


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