Before Carl Stuart Middle School let out for Christmas break one teacher was wrapping up lesson plans and encouraging students to make New Year’s resolutions.
Kathryn Bates, who teaches seventh grade, said on that level, students really don’t want to do a crossword puzzle or a word search.
“I was trying to think of something that tied to the season without being childish,” she said. “So I came up with the idea of New Year’s resolutions. They were bouncing around in my head and so I looked to see what activities were out there.”
Through researching, Bates said she found an idea to create a New Year’s Resolution Wall.
“It was a way to bridge the lesson,” she said. “It was basically our last class day before break.”
Bates said the class broke up the word resolution and deciphered what the root, prefix and suffix meant. She said solu means to loosen, re means to do again and tion is the act of doing something.
“So we talked about problems and how New Year’s resolutions can tackle problems in a systematic way,” she said. "We went around the room and shared some things that they’ve see their parent do.”
Bates said each students had to come up with three: one about home, one about school and one of their own personal choice.
She said the resolutions, which were anonymous, varied from funny to serious, some reading along the lines of helping more with housework, others about studying more and some about being more healthy.
“They were pretty on board,” Bates said. “I expected there to more attempt at humor than there were. Some of them are quite serious and quite private.”
She said students flock to the board like it’s a “big screen TV.”
“[They] read and look and try to figure out whose is whose and pick out their favorite,” Bates said. “So while they’re seeing their own resolutions, they’re also getting all these other ideas.”
She said one of her favorites was written by a student who said they resolved to remember that their family and friends do love and care about them.
“[That] one impacted [me] because I understand and I know what’s going on,” Bates said.
She said all of her students took the task seriously.
“They just kind of picked up on areas that they could improve and that surprised me,” she said.
One mentioned needing to turn in an overdue library book.
“That is kind of humorous, but at the same time that’s a problem,” Bates said. “They’re procrastinating and they’re recognizing that.”
Since school started up again, she said several have mentioned the resolutions and are thinking and commenting about what they wrote down and reminding themselves to try harder this semester.
“I see effort in the classroom,” Bates said. “I see them wanting to get off to a good start.”
She said she believes the resolution board was not only a fun activity for her students, but also added value to the hands-on learning experience.
“I think it just brings their contribution and their effort to the forefront and makes them realize that they’re not passively acquiring information,” Bates said. “They have to be accountable if they want to succeed.”
She said together, they also talk about advocating for their learning.
“These students are college-bound,” Bates said. “That’s why they’re in pre-AP. They’re trying to be prepared to be successful in college so we have to teach them now how to advocate for their learning and how to be accountable for their learning and not to simply feel as if education happens all by itself.”
Overall, she said the experience was hugely successful and well-received and will probably continue it.
One of Bates’s students, Andrew, said when she told the class what they were doing, he thought it would be fun. He said the wall gave him the opportunity to see what everybody wrote and what was going on in the lives of his peers.
“I thought it was a pretty good idea,” Andrew said. “I liked [being able to read the resolutions] because if you look at them, a few [were] humorous and would make you giggle and some of them were really deep and really make you think about it.”
He said his resolutions were to work with metal more, which he was able to do over break, eat healthier breakfasts and spend more time with his pets.
Andrew said he has done resolutions in previous grades, but this was more fun.
Bates said each student was able to go to the computer lab and was able to play with their font, print it and cut it out.
“Technology for these kids … it wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun if we would’ve written them down or even shared them out loud,” she said.
Bates said being able to see them all posted on the board has been pretty cool.