Making (and Keeping!) New Year’s Resolutions

Happy 2017!

It’s that time of year again.  As the new year rolls around, many people are making (and breaking) New Year’s resolutions. Gym memberships significantly increase in January, spring cleaning sweeps begin, bad habits are dropped (or go on hiatus), and some readers have likely resolved to focus on enhancing their teaching practices this year. Since we are a couple of weeks into the 2017, how many of these New Year’s resolutions are still in progress?

A survey conducted by Statistics Brain on 1 January 2017, tracked among other things, how long people reported keeping their New Year’s resolutions. Through the first week, 72.6% resolutions were maintained, but only 58.4% were maintained past one month. Does this sound familiar?

Length of Resolutions Data
Resolutions maintained through first week 72.6 %
Past two weeks 68.4 %
Past one month 58.4 %
Past six months 44.8 %

Another area of the survey reports 44.3% of respondents resolved to work toward self-improvement or education. If you are part of this group, let’s talk about some strategies for keeping those resolutions.  In her TESOL Quarterly article, Nancy Clair (1998) says, “One-shot workshops and prepackaged seminars, although potentially effective for creating awareness and building discrete skills, are insufficient for facilitating teacher collaboration and change“ (p. 466). Rather than looking for a “one-shot” boost, let’s look at some longer term strategies to develop ourselves as educators throughout the year.

  • Join local and international conferences. Though Clair warns of the improbability of a one-time workshop or seminar in itself making lasting teaching change, they needn’t be discounted entirely. Attending conferences can be a great way to see what new research and techniques are trending in the field. It is also a valuable way to network and meet or reconnect with educators with similar interests and passions. These “one-shot workshops” may act as catalysts and provide a kickstart to seek out other opportunities to continue to develop yourself professionally. The 2017 TESOL Convention, held in March of this year, is one of the biggest and most well-attended conventions in the TESOL field. Are you going?
  • Take an online course. Not able to get away for a whole convention?  Electronic Village Online (EVO) courses are available online, and they are free and open to everyone—TESOL member or not. These five-week sessions allow opportunities to interact with professional moderators and participants from around the world. In addition to the EVO, there are numerous other online communities, blogs, Facebook groups, TESOL educators on twitter, etc. Give it a try and join one of these communities—it’s fine to start by lurking and reading what others have to say and then join in with your own contributions.
  • Reflective journal-writing. Taking a few moments to write in a journal, whether it be after a particular class or on another regular basis, can be a great way to focus your thoughts and to further reflect on things that are happening, both in the classroom and within your own mind. Journal writing can be individual or can be done together with a colleague or friend. You can rush write, with stream of consciousness writing or select a specific focus of exploration each time you write. You don’t need rules; just put the pen to paper and see what happens.
  • Start a regular group meet up. This could be anything from a teacher inquiry group to a focused book club. Find a group of educators who are interested in meeting on a regular basis (either online or in person). Set up a regular time and purpose for meeting. Perhaps the meetings involve talking about a shared book or life/classroom implications, or each session involves brainstorming and sharing ideas about one member’s classroom situation. In addition to fun social interaction, having a community of people to share your ideas with can help everyone to grow together and learn from one another.
  • Focus on what you want and set goals to help you get there. Think about what are you doing, in or out of the classroom, that you could do even better. Make some SMART goals—that is, goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based. After deciding on some specific, concrete goals, make a plan for how you will move toward those goals. Write them down and put these goals in a place where you will see them every day. And, when you do accomplish them, celebrate—you’ve earned it!

If you have any other success strategies for making (and keeping!) New Year’s resolution or would like to share success stories of goals that have accomplished, please leave a comment below.

About Shannon Tanghe

Shannon Tanghe
Shannon Tanghe is the program director of the Master's in ESL program at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota. She has taught in South Korea for more than 16 years, and has also taught in Egypt, Guyana, and the United States. Shannon was selected as the 2016 TESOL Teacher of the Year. Shannon holds a PhD in TESOL & Composition from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Shannon’s research interests are teacher collaboration, World Englishes, and teacher development.
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One Response to Making (and Keeping!) New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Josh says:

    Thank you for an interesting post and the interesting statistics – I found the percentages very enlightening. On a personal front I have already taken a misstep in my quest to learn an instrument this year (I have missed my last three lessons); however I am getting back to it next week. Luckily I believe that falling behind for a while does not equate to failing. There will always be setbacks and times of slower progression, but once we understand this it is easier to get back on the wagon once you have fallen off.

    Feel free to check out my post on Motivation and Goal Setting for Language Learners ( if you have the time.
    Thank you,

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