Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

Written by Ms. Berman

I have never been fond of New Year's Resolutions because of the overemphasis on making a decision to cast forth change at one specific time of year.  Why this change?  Why now?  What is the guarantee that the change will be made and who watches to see that it is done?  However this year I find myself reflecting on the word itself, resolution, and the related verb, resolve.  Rather than using the opportunity to create new "pie crust" promises, I prefer to think of this moment as a chance to share daily assertions with those who care to listen.  What is it that I resolve?
As an educator, the end of the calendar year signifies the finality of the Common Application "letters of recommendation"  process.  After 23 years of teaching, one would think this would be a perfunctory ritual by now, but every student has a story to tell, and each year brings new meaning to the word resolution.  Terms that come to mind such as tenacious and perseverant pale in comparison to the obstacles that each of my students has had to overcome.  The students who don't believe that they have done anything extraordinary are in the majority and the most difficult to work with, as writing about how amazing they are is clearly a source of discomfort for them.  Not everyone has to have lived on the streets or suffered severe trauma to have experienced hardship.  High school is challenging.  Life is challenging.  Each person's challenges are important to him/her, and should not be compared to another, nor discredited as insignificant.  The common thread of the students who "succeed" is attitude; they don't believe that the lottery that has cast them into their current living situation should define who they are, and that their life challenges will provide them with the fortitude to succeed in the future.  They are correct in their convictions.  Keeping in touch with a multitude of former students over the years has allowed to me watch these stories play out.  But this post is not about my former students and their life stories; it is about resolution.  This is what I resolve:
To continue to persuade the population at large that our students need more recognition, support, and celebration.  They need more people to tell them that: "Yes, they will make it through."  "The choices they make on a daily basis do matter."  "Their hard work is appreciated."  One could argue that students should do it all for the intrinsic rewards (and grades) and that they shouldn't need constant reinforcement.  But I resolve that no adult in my generation has ever maintained the work load that our youngsters are currently producing.  How could we possibly understand what they are going through when we had more hours in the day of "dream time" and fewer hours of homework?  When a GPA of 3.8 was sufficient to enter a competitive college with relative ease?  When it was the exception, not the norm, to study for the SAT exam?  I resolve that we acknowledge our teens as the one of the hardest-working groups in our society.  All teens have obstables to overcome; they must all exhibit tenacity and perserverance.  We should value their contribution.  We should remind them that who they are and how they conduct their lives does make a difference.  We should treat them with respect and insist that they do so in return.  After all, it won't be long before they surpass the older generations with their collective knowledge.  I resolve that Gen Y-Not? has the ability to change the world. 


  1. Inspired as always. The other day I was having a conversation with one of my friends and we were contemplating year one. we asked questions like, who decide to start enumerating the years, and why did it take 2010 years to start doing it. Oh yeah, and my personal favorite how did they keep time records before that? It turns out that the catholic church started the current year system and that before that it was based of the life of the Roman Caesar. But more to the point we humans are cyclical creatures, it may be because our seasons are cyclical and we have adapted to expect these changes. All that aside, I stopped making resolutions about six years ago. I have been more of the mindset of seeking psychic changes (an alteration in my personal psyche) if I can change the way I perceive life I can change the way I live life. Resolutions are good for short term forceful, sometimes stringent, ways of telling ourselves that we want to try a different way of living. For some people the New Year marks a new chapter in their life and a good starting point for change. I think a good question to ask ourselves this New Year is not what do we resolve to change, but rather where does that change start? is it in the mind, in the heart or somewhere deep within our psyche? if we can find the real starting point for change within ourselves we might not have to set a date to make changes outside ourselves.

  2. I began making resolutions at a very young age as a "coping skill" to try and make myself better for others. To improve my B to an A for my parents.... To fit into a smaller size clothing so I could take my older siblings old clothes that I was too big for....To not speak my opinions so as not to upset the family. Were these really resolutions? Who were these really helping? I was stuffing my feelings inside and changing myself to please others.

    As I have gotten older and have my own children I know how completely wrong and unhealthy this was. The years and the pain I went through to undo those "resolutions". Resolutions CAN be a good thing but only if it is for YOURSELF!

    So now I am at another year of it is easy for me ~ improving upon MY mind body and soul!

    “Whatever your mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.”
    — Napoleon Hill

  3. I think as a society the resolutions we make are too big and unattainable. Last week in Weight Watchers, we talked about calling it winning outcomes. That we should create goals that are acheivable, that are postive, and that we can actually do. For instance, for me to say I want to lose 50 pounds in one year is great if I was on Biggest Loser and that is all I did for 2 months. But in reality, I don't have the time. But I can say I will lose 2 pounds a month. That is postive and attainable. When I lost 55 pounds, it took me 6 years to accomplish that goal. I didn't put a number on myself. I changed habits, I changed my choices; those things I could control.

    I agree with Bert that we are cyclical. We are taught that from day one. A day has 24 hours; the clock moves around in a cirlce. We are taught about the start and finish of a day, a month, and a year. But I think this is the time of year where people actually look at the year as something new with no hardships or sadness. I try to do that every day. I try to remember that this day has never happened before and will never happen again. And I've learned that I can always start my day over by changing my attitude.

    I am looking at 2011 with some trepidation. I am graduating in May with my Master's and now I have to find a job. Everyone has lots of advice for me about what I should or shouldn't do. Now I have to figure out what I want to do. I don't have a specific job in mind and I'm not sure even what my niche is. But I do know that if I just continue to put one foot in front of another and do the footwork, I will find that job.

    My resoltion this year is to continue to be postive, grateful, to do my best, and to be comfortable in my own skin. Those I can accomplish. Those are within my control to do.

    Happy New Year everyone. May 2011 be as special as you are.

  4. Most of my friends, if they make a resolution, break it within a month. I haven't made a resolution (or wished upon a shooting star) for a number of years. That way, when i break a theoretical resolution, i don't actually let myself down, feel sorry for myself about not keeping it and vow to keep it next year. If i want to change something about myself, I'm not going wait for the new year to start changing it. I'm going to (try) to do it as soon as possible, and hopefully get to where i want to be. it may take a few months, r possibly even years, but at least I did it, instead of saying 'This is the year such and such will happen.'
    I don't know. Maybe its the deadline of next new years that causes most people to break their resolutions. things in life aren't always the fastest, and something take decades to accomplish.

  5. To tell you the truth, I have found it difficult to read and respond to your blog, because it takes me back to my high days (against my will). I was one of the kids facing the unimaginable hardships with my family, but you’re right. It was attitude that made me get out of bed in the morning. Tenacity doesn’t even begin to shed light on the situation. I’ve often told people (when reflecting back high school) that I knew that there was a world of possibilities right outside my front door. It gave me a sense of control. If I could just get through the evening, I could go to school the next morning and make something AWESOME out of my life.
    Every morning I had a ritual of stepping right outside my door and saying to myself, “Ok. Leave the past where it belongs. In the past. This world has been good to me.” My whole walk and ride to school, I made lists of things to do in my head. I thought what I needed to get done, who I wanted to hang out with, and what kind of fun adventures I would go on.
    It’s easy for me to remember the loving friends and supportive teachers, but it is hard to understand how incredibly important these people were. In the moment, it was easy for me make smart choices, because I was set on having a fulfilled life. But now, when I have shared more experiences with new people, after I’ve seen the dark edges of society, I understand how these choices do not come easily to others. This realization makes me appreciate our different stories; not just of trials and tribulations, but those stories about triumph, love and adventure. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that we are capable of great things in this universe, but it is just a matter of choosing to live with attitude.

  6. I'm not to fond of making a "New Years Resolution" either, I feel like it's just an idea that makes us want to challenge ourselves more. Making vows or promises to ourselves that we may want to be successful in but in my perspective I know that some people or people that I know really don't follow through their desired resolution.
    On New Years, I actually made a resolution but I'm not going to actually vow myself to not break it and also accomplish it. I will try to stick with it but I just can't guarantee myself on making such a huge change. Either way in this New Year, something marvelous will happen and maybe something in your life could change but again in my own thought process I just think a resolution is just another a goal to accomplish or even a planned idea.

  7. I've always started each year with 12 wishes,12 grapes,wine and 12 new year resolutions. This is our tradition. I tend to brake my resolutions,like everyone else.However i am trying soo hard to not break it this year.The typical weight loss resolution, i can not eat bread,cookies,drink soda,eat ice cream(which i love) and no red meat.I am going to be more organised and keep saving money from my pay check for college.My family knows me preety well, they think im not going to last a month, mainly because i love food lol. I enjoy proving people wrong, i will last all year, i understand it will be hard but theirrs a process that i have to take just like anything else.Its a struggle but it should be fun trying to last all year along with the other 10 resolutions.

  8. I feel that the whole point of making a "New Years Resolution" is to push yourself in a more positive direction from where you were the previous year. It never hurts to expand your horizons. I generally make "resolutions" throughout the year, as a form of discipline for myself to stay focused and push myself to a new level.
    I was really happy to see that you feel for us teenagers. That you understand that we are going through a lot of emotions, and have homework and other responsibilities. Most of my teachers tell me to work hard and succeed, they don't seem to care what goes on outside of school because of how many students they have to worry about. However, you seem to be one of very few teachers that cares, and wants to hear about our thoughts and concerns outside of school.
    I am glad you are a teacher that wants to listen.

  9. I will always make new years resolutions and end up breaking them later on. Sometimes I'll do it without noticing and then by the time I do, I think it is too late. I realize now that just because it is a new year, one doesn't have to make a resolution. They can make it at anytime during the year. I said to myself in October that I'll study more for a bio test, and my grade ended up being a B instead of a C.

  10. It is February now, more then a month into the new year. My New Years Resolution was to earn a 4.0 at the semester, and copntinue it to the end of the year. At that point I was looking at a 3.6 and had little to no motivation to put the extra effort in. All of a sudden, The new year started and there was a week or two left in the semester and my effort level increased. I ended up earnig that 4.0 and I was very happy, that motivation I lacked, suddenly came in 2011. All I needed was something to motivate me like a New Years Resolution, I think that is all we need. We just need something to push us over the top of our confort zone.