The 30-Day Challenge

At the beginning of January, I like to talk with my students about goal setting. We’re in the middle of the school year and now that the honeymoon is over, it’s time for us to make some choices about how we orient ourselves toward the work to be done in our remaining months together. In the past, I have asked students to write a personal goal statement or even reflect on their personal new year’s resolutions, but then I watched a TED talk by Google engineer Matt Cutts.

In this very brief talk, Matt Cutts argues very simply that by selecting a personal challenge for thirty days can be a way to revitalize your life and either add something new that you’ve always wanted to try, or it can be a chance to do without something that might be a bad habit. I watched the video with my classes and we’ve been inspired to try the thirty-day challenge.

In these doldrums of the school year, it can be hard to face the cold, early mornings and the flat, uninterrupted greyness of the world outside. It’s easy for students and teachers to focus on the long months ahead. By making the next thirty days meaningful, I am hoping my classes will feel purposeful and fresh.

Starting on Monday, in each of my classes, we are either going to have the “vocabulary word of the day” or the “fun fact” of the day. I plan to post a schedule for student volunteers to sign up for a word or fact, then we’ll spend two minutes each day exploring language or ideas. I hope to report back on how this challenge shapes up for us, and I hope that my students will still be energized enough after thirty days to tackle something new.

I Wore My Coat in Class Today

It has happened at least once in every school–public or private–where I have taught. At some point the furnace goes, and it’s always on the coldest day of the year. How strange to keep working with gloves, scarves, and winter jackets wrapped tight. I resisted the peacoat until I made a trip into the hallway and realized the hall was warmer than my room.

My classroom is often uncomfortably cold in the winter and stiflingly hot in August and late spring/early summer. It’s one of the harder parts of maintaining such a sprawling complex. It’s more barn than building, more mall than office park. We bleed energy from every gap in the double doors and around every warped-seal on a window. All I can do is dress in layers when it’s cold and bring a fan from home to stir the air when it’s hot. To the person who solves the energy efficiency/heating and cooling problem for schools–you will be one very wealthy person.

Please get on that. Soon.

Another down side to the cold weather is that it has driven a few mice into my desk drawers. My principal likes to give teachers a chocolate bar and card for birthdays and I hadn’t taken a nibble of mine before a mouse squirmed its way into my desk and gnawed nearly a third of it while my students and I were away from the room. How impertinent! That happened before the holiday break and I managed to clean out the “remains” my visitor had left. Today I found that another “friend” had attacked a sealed bottle of vitamin C in the opposite drawer. Is there anything worse than wondering when you reach into a desk drawer for a pen or note pad that you might come in contact with a mouse–or its leavings?

I’d like to laugh. To shrug it off and say, well–these things do happen and can happen to anyone–but I wonder. I wonder.