Monday, January 2, 2012

Habits and goals

2012 is here. It doesn't sound like a date that could describe the present. I sounds more like a date from a sci-fi novel describing either a world full of robots and flying cars or a dystopian future after some terrible disaster, human kind is faced with extinction. Well 2012 is now the present. We do have some robots, we even have one in our house. It's a vacuum and it's been broken for a few years and I haven't replaced it. I have an idea that cars could fly but they would be too expensive and would cause too many complications. As for the terrible disaster, we've had lots of those and we are still carrying on.

But that's all off topic. Today I wanted to talk about how my goals for myself are going. So far I've been exercising every day. I've been drinking 8-10 glasses of water (I'm not sure if I'll be able to keep that up when I go back to school though because it means having to go to the bathroom way more than I have time for) I've made and kept to my meal plan, I've been writing daily and I'm feeling pretty good.

After my last post about my goals, my father sent me a link to this site about how no one can stick to their resolutions and that fitness programs that promise quick results are worthless. Instead, it advocates choosing one habit that you want to change and focusing on it for one month. I agree with that idea and I have been mostly focusing on my fitness goal so far but I also want to re-start my other goals as well. The Zen Habits site has 5 big pointers for forming habits and the second is:
Do one habit at a time only. People often skip this one because they think they are different than everyone else, but I’ve found this to be extremely effective. You increase your odds of success with just one habit at a time, for many reasons: habits are hard to form because they require lots of focus and energy, having many habits means you’re spreading yourself too thin, and if you can’t commit to one habit at a time, you’re not fully committed.
Now I agree with this statement. I really do. But, the goals (habits) that I want to focus on are ones that I have done before but have let fall to the way side. I don't want to not write just because I'm focusing on increasing my fitness. And I'm not going to wait three months before I start meal planning either. But perhaps this month I will focus on my fitness while writing and meal planning but not put as much energy into the other habits that I'm trying to form while I work on making sure that I'm exercising every day this month.

Another suggestion on this site was to use Fitocracy to help track your exercise and to make getting fit more social. It's essentially a social networking site that promotes fitness. There are challenges and points awarded and all of those fun little carrots to help keep you motivated. I've joined up and am enjoying it a great deal.

I think that this idea of forming habits, focusing on one at a time and putting a lot of energy into making sure that habit becomes ingrained is very important in the classroom. Daily 5 is a perfect example of this. The way that read to self is introduced for example, is all about forming good reading habits. It's done slowly and deliberately. None of the other components are introduced until the class has good read to self habits and high stamina for independent reading. After that is going then another component, maybe write to self or read to a friend is introduced and again, the class builds stamina, forms good independent habits before moving on to another.

In December, I decided to take a risk and try to introduce independent writing in my classroom. Why is this a risk? Well, they're only 3 months in to learning French and independence is not something that comes easily when learning a new language. But their habits from learning to read to self independently in French were so strong that they surprised me. It took a lot of work and modeling and problem solving as a group, but they were very quickly able to take those skills and write independently.  So now Mrs. W and I are able to go around and conference with students without being interrupted by students who want me to be Mme LaDictionnaire. I'm hoping that when we switch over to English in a month and I officially introduce the Daily 5 to them that they will be able to take the skills and habits that they are learning now and apply them to our English Language Arts classes, but I won't expect that they will all be able to do that on their own so I will help them, through explicit teaching and modelling, to develop those habits slowly and thoroughly so that they will have them forever.

What sorts of habits are most important for your students? For yourself? What do you do in your life to try to build your positive habits?

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