New Year’s Resolutions…

… are for suckers.  Or so I thought.

Until yesterday, the only resolution I made for this year was to eat more pulled pork.  Seriously.  I’ve got a recipe that will blow your mind.  But I digress.

Yes, I thought they were for suckers.  However, as the first Monday back drew to a close, I sat on my sofa and pondered some of the positive changes I could make this year, should I be so inclined to do so, and after pushing through the wall of cliché, I came to a conclusion –

So long as your resolutions are beneficial to yourself and others, and, in the grand tradition of teaching, are SMART – then how can one possibly go wrong?

Thinking SMART

Whilst thinking of what I wanted to achieve this year, I decided to turn to an old friend of mine who has been with me since I qualified as a teacher, way back in 2008 – the SMART target.  As most teachers well know, the principles of SMART are, well, bloody clever (come on, I’m an English teacher; I refuse to use ‘smart’ as an adjective if I can help it). That is –

Specific – Measurable – Achievable – Realistic – Time-focused

I’m an absolute mug for a fad, especially one that I *think* is going to save me time, and thanks to my gullible ways, I have in the past ended up out of pocket, out of ideas and indeed, out of time, so this time I was going to focus on the things that mattered.

I thought back to my tweets to Nicky Morgan earlier this month regarding teacher workload.  How could I manage the never-ending pile of marking and planning that mocked me from my desk every day, come 4 o’clock?  It’s unrealistic to think that one can get away with doing no work at home (see resolution no. 4, 2012; no. 2, 2013; no. 1, 2014).  So how could I manage my time effectively to ensure that I took home as little as possible?

Resolution 1: Adopt the Highlighted List Method

SMART Rating –
S: Workload;
M: Sanity levels will reduce dramatically;
A: Even a child could do this;
R: It’s writing a LIST. Come on.
T: Seen on a day-to-day basis

This has been brilliant and has gone some way to saving my sanity this week.

As teachers, we all know the pressure of receiving fifteen emails from various areas of the school at various, inconvenient points throughout the day.  It can, at times, be overwhelming and unless you’re a whizz with your e-diary, it can be very difficult to keep up.

I’ve kept a diary in the past, but have always fallen to pieces by March as I become overloaded with notes, ideas, dates, meetings…  So I’ve never really managed to keep a diary.  I started to browse Pinterest for ideas that didn’t require sticky-back plastic and a degree in Engineering, and that’s when I came across the highlighted list.

Let’s be fair, we all love ticking things off a to-do list.  This works on the same principle – on each page of the diary, you make a list of what NEEDS to be done.  Plan this a couple of days in advance, so you have timeslots for each activity you have to do – work these into your frees, and treat them as meetings – don’t allow yourself to be waylaid by errant students or curious staff.

As you complete a task, highlight it in pink.  This shows it’s done.

Whatever isn’t done by the end of the day is highlighted in yellow, and the task is slotted in on the next day.

The beauty is, you rarely end up slotting things in because it’s so damn easy to finish everything when it’s presented in such easy-to-read slots, and it’s much easier to address issues when they are glaringly un-highlighted than they are when they are sat in your inbox, waiting to be seen.

I even find myself ticking things off for the next day, just to make my workload that little bit easier tomorrow.

***

Next, I started thinking about my life outside of school.  I made a vow to myself on hitting 30 that I’d see 30 places before I hit 31.  I’m currently at 24 with five months to go, so I’m doing pretty well (and really should have been updating this blog, come to think of it).  However, I still have a number of big trips I want to take and with rent in Brighton at its highest levels ever and energy bills exploding in the last 18 months, saving is difficult when you’re a single woman in a one-bed flat.

Plus, I’m rubbish at saving money.

Which led me to my next resolution –

Resolution 2: The Weekly Saving Challenge

S: Save a specific amount each week (or more)
M: Money saved recorded in a spreadsheet
A: The year starts small (£1 in week 1!) so isn’t too big a shock
R: I can save; I just haven’t in the past.
T: Weekly deposits saved over a year

This has been doing the rounds on the internet for a while and was brought to my attention last week.  It’s bloody ingenious and makes me wonder why I hadn’t thought of it myself before.

The concept is simple – you save an amount of money equal in pounds to the week of the year we’re in.  So, in layman’s terms:

Week 1 – £1
Week 2 – £2
Week 3 – £3

And so on.

In an epic moment of pseudo-craftiness, I poked a £1-sized hole in my Highland Park carton and eagerly thrust £1 inside to mark my first official week as a “saver”.  It shames me to say that this is an achievement, seeing as I’m 30, but hey, who’s caring?  A start’s a start, right?

So far, despite only being in week 1, we are hitting £4 and that Summer trip to Sri Lanka suddenly seems a lot more achievable.  I’ll keep you updated.

***

Finally, I have been thinking about cheap and cheerful ways to get creative in the kitchen.  I’ve got a lot of love for vegetables but a Northerner’s attitude to food, which is basically, if it didn’t used to have eyes, then I’m not interested.  All well and good, but it’s probably going to be good for me to think about different food stuffs over the coming weeks.  Which led me to my final vow –

Resolution 3: Be Healthy (But Trick Body Into Thinking It Is In The Lap of Luxury)

S: Focuses on cleaner eating
M: I’ll look and feel better
A: As it’s cheaper, it’s definitely more achievable
R: It’s not a ‘diet’, so it’s a much more realistic target for me
T: The weekly food shop dictates this!

This one has been a doddle so far.

I went to Asda and bought them out of carrots and brussel sprouts in an admirable vow to make them both palatable.  I also went a bit mad on the broccoli.

Armed with my spice cabinet and access to a world-wide-web full of ideas, I set to.

So far, we’ve had brussel sprout curry and curried potatoes, carrots and peas.  Both delicious, both to be posted soon.

Next, I’m looking at dahl-icious lentil dishes.  Cheap, cheerful (HELLO weekly savings whiskey carton!) and healthy to boot – you can even store them in the fridge or freezer for cheap lunches throughout the week.

***

So, there you have it.  Coupled with last year’s successful (albeit set in September) resolutions to use DIRT in the classroom (big fat tick; blog post coming soon – thanks David Didau) and to not work over the weekend (semi-tick – except for exam season. Sigh), this new term is looking easier to tackle than ever.

Of course, we can’t forget the last thing that I simply must stick to this year:

Resolution 4: Post to Itchy-Footed Teacher on a Regular Basis

I’m intending to make this page my place to share stories, recipes, craft ideas, lesson plans, reflections and strategies for the classroom.  I’d be very happy if you were to join me some time.

Adieu,

-R.

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