Setting resolutions worth keeping

My daughter Georgia made an emphatic statement just the other day.

“I’m not going to make any resolutions because no one keeps resolutions,” she said. “I’m going to make a commitment to myself.”

Georgia’s statement makes me smile. I had given up resolutions a few years ago. With my family, a full time teaching position, a responsibility to find funds to publish our school magazine, teach the kids design technique, and all of my other teaching responsibilities, I slumped into survival mode.

Who had time for reflection and resolutions? I barely had time for sleep.

During this hectic time, a former student contacted me. When I came to Pelham High School, I taught freshmen. In later years, I taught mostly juniors and a few sophomore classes. Some students actually had me for freshman, sophomore and junior English.

Luckily, they had a wonderful senior English teacher before they graduated. I hoped I hadn’t done any permanent damage. This former student, Keith, was one of my three–year students. I hoped he wasn’t emailing from grammar rehab.

Keith wanted me to know that each year, he and his wife set goals for the coming year. When Keith’s wife asked him when his goal setting began, he told her that his high school English teacher always gave a January goal-setting assignment. Keith and his wife decided to let me know that they still set goals.

He even shared some of his accomplishments and I was very proud –- until I realized that I’d ditched my own January goal-setting assignment a few years back. I was worried about covering American literature for the AP test, teaching the state standards, helping my students get scholarships, and publishing the magazine.

But couldn’t I spare one class to teach a lesson that might help my students live more productive, happier lives? Keith’s email convinced me.

I resurrected my January lesson that year. On the first day back after the holidays, while my students write their goals, I’ll write my own and I’ll marvel a bit at the simplicity of my goals.

Perhaps one of the most important resolutions is to take time for what matters most in our lives –– the joy we’re blessed with, and the people who bring us that joy.

With wonderful students, friends and family members surrounding me, I resolve to live more joyfully in 2009. And Georgia, that’s a resolution I can keep.