Tales from the Chalkface: Act today without delay!

New Year’s resolution: “I shall not procrastinate.” Good vocabulary, at least. This is the first one I picked out of the pile of personal learning targets I’d asked my students to write down and commit to. They’re kind of New Year’s resolutions for the classroom.

I’ve finished washing up, taking out the rubbish, mending a jumper and cleaning all the crumbs from inside the cupboards, so I can’t put it off any more: that pile of marking homework known to every English teacher the world over. These resolutions from 12 and 18 year olds are piled on top of exercise books containing accounts of A Midsummer Night’s Dream or papers analysing family conflict in Oedipus Rex, but I digress. Let’s get back to that marking.

Before I pick up the red pen (or should it be a user-friendly green one in these enlightened times?), I’ll just read the rest of these resolutions. “I will spend a bit more time on my homework and revising for tests.” That’s a worthy sentiment from a young idealist.

Although these offerings are anonymous, I can tell I’m in the notes from Year 7 – the 12 year olds. It’s not just the writing but the touching openness and optimism that give them away. Phrases such as: “I will get more concentrated in lessons,” or “Do my homework,” or “I will improv my spelling and make an extra efort” turn up time and again. Best of all is the boy who confides that January 2nd is his birthday and, as well as hoping to remember to write down all his homework, he wants to get strawberry cake for tea and the iPhone his father promised as a reward for good grades.

The older students are more pragmatic. Their resolutions and the connection to learning are more esoteric. One says: “Fly solo, literally.” I guess they’re all poised to do that one way or another. Then there is: “Buy a suit that fits me.” If only all resolutions were simply a question of cash.

Finally there is the resolution to end all resolutions, which must have been written by one ready to leave the classroom: “My resolution is not to have any resolution. I give my life a free flow and do things spontaneously whether they are part of my resolution or not.” I think this one may be a bit ambitious.

That’s the end of the pile of promises. I have no more excuses. I’m left with the exercise books and those papers on the classically dysfunctional family. If only I hadn’t left my green pen at school. I resolve to be more organised, and to stop procrastinating.

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