By Heather Hollands
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” ~Annie Dillard
My one-word resolution for 2013 is “flourish.” I like one-word resolutions because they guide you throughout the year but don’t restrict you to one goal. When I look back on 2012, it mostly was a bland year for me. This is because I did not nurture myself as a reader, writer or artist. I didn’t set the tone of the year with a resolution like I have in years past (“breathe” was my word for 2011). I dropped blogging. I didn’t write to get published or even write in a personal journal. I only read a few books. I didn’t create art. Looking back, I wonder Where did the year go and how did I spend my days?
Incredible opportunities did land in my lap. A trip to Poland and Israel with teachers from the Holocaust Educators Network provided me with experiences I cherish: walking the railroad tracks at Auschwitz-Birkenau, remembering victims and honoring survivors at Yad Vashem, exploring the Herodian fortress Masada, and floating in the Dead Sea. Another highlight was a trip to the National Writing Project Annual Meeting in Las Vegas. On both of these journeys I reconnected with teachers from around the country in my Personal Learning Network and spent quality time with Amy Laitinen. We teach across the hall from each other, but rarely find moments during the day to say more than “hi.”
In the classroom, my students and I also enjoyed many learning collaborations. Two units that delighted me in English 10 were developed by the teens themselves. They wrote and illustrated children’s stories then shared their books with elementary school students. They also celebrated a coffeelicious Poetry Cafe day to culminate a productive writing unit.
This school year, I still teach tenth grade English but have added seventh and eighth grade Science Exploratory classes. On Halloween my science students and I set up a ‘Mad Scientist’ lab that would make Steve Spangler proud, and we conducted several spooky experiments. We used black lights and made huge batches of slime. We’ve sampled astronaut ice cream and have marveled at explosive Mentos-Diet Coke geysers.
The moments in between these highlights are when I could have done more to pursue my passions. I wish I would have reflected more, created more. I spent too much time getting an extra hour of sleep instead of waking up and writing, or watching another episode of The Bachelorette when I could have been reading John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. So how can I get over this slump in 2013?
When I first considered “flourish” for my resolution, it didn’t quite suit me. I think of grand gestures but I have a more laid-back style. Or I think of showy strokes of the pen. I love to write, but there are no sweeping lines or swirls in my penmanship. I prefer to clack on the keyboard.
For a moment, I rejected the word for the way it looks, like “flour-ish,” a white, powdery mess. Yet, the word kept repeating itself to me flourish flourish flourish. Thrive. Create. Write. Grow. Read. Produce. Excel. Influence. Learn. Enjoy.
In the first six days of this year I have submitted an essay to be considered for a book about teaching and poetry; I have committed to writing a chapter for a different book about rural teachers; and I have contacted a publication about doing some freelance writing on educational issues in Michigan. I have started reading The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall. I even scheduled a time this week for an artist’s date with myself to create a visual reminder of my resolution.
The word “flourish” comes from “flower.” In 2013 I am a clutch of my favorite flowers, stargazer lilies. It is said that pink stargazers (yes, a little bit showy) hold a promise of good fortune and prosperity. I will stay watered. I will spend my days in bloom. My creativity will flourish. This is how I choose to spend my days.