Another New Year

Happy New Year. No doubt, you are thinking about the arrival of 2011 in just a few weeks. The New Year traditionally signals a fresh start with new plans and goals and heightened expectations for health and happiness. But at Greenhill, the New Year comes twice a year – when the school year begins in late August and then again in January. Think of the opportunity we have!

Recall those sweltering late summer days when we welcomed families to the start of a new school year. Everything’s new – schedules, teachers, classes, books, and more. For many entering our community for the first time, newness is the overwhelming emotion. The buildings on campus buzz with excitement. After a summer of growth, it is time to step up to the next grade level or it is time to welcome a new crop of smiling faces. Our faculty have hopes for their new charges, and they meticulously plan the learning year so that growth and progress unfold. Many teachers ask their students to write and reflect on personal goals.

Setting goals in August is fairly standard practice. After all, a new school year translates into the opportunity to fix some old habits and to develop some new productive ones, all under the guidance of new and enthusiastic adults. Faculty and staff have their own goals that reflect teaching practice or personal growth. The cycle of the late-August fresh start is ingrained in many of us.

But I would argue that the other New Year – the one where the calendar actually changes – is a second opportunity. Ninth grade English teacher Joel Garza recently asked his students to speak for two minutes on what they’ve learned in the course and what learning plans they have for themselves moving into 2011. One student likened her improvement in writing to the characters of the texts, and her resolve to continue with this new self-awareness was inspirational.

The half-way point of the school year comes at a perfect time for reflection. Many teachers offer their students reflection time throughout the learning year as well. What did I learn? What else could we have tried? How does this knowledge apply to me? As students pause to mull over these prompts, real learning takes place. Using the occasion of the New Year not only to turn over a new leaf but also to examine progress seems like the perfect use of the calendar change.

One teacher recently told me that she is a “cogitator” and that she likes to take the time to slowly consider all sides of the issue. The skill of reflection must be encouraged and nurtured. It is tied to self-awareness, authentic learning, and problem-solving – all critical to 21st century success.

As the calendar changes, let’s take the opportunity of the new year to recalibrate those hopes, dreams, and plans established in August. And Happy New Year #2 to all!

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