by Emily Zionts

Looking over the shoulder of a person writing in a notebook

On our first day back to class after the winter holiday break, I did a little New Year’s resolutions exercise with my middle schoolers.

It is the first step of the unit that I facilitate every year at this time on how to write S.M.A.R.T. goals.

The process of learning how to make resolutions that are (s)pecific, (m)easurable, (a)ttainable, (r)elevant, and (t)imely may not be the most exciting lesson plan ever, but I definitely do my best to enthusiastically gear them up to learn a skill that is not only one of the foundations of self-directed learning, but one that I sincerely wish I had learned before adulthood.

To begin, I had them free write on:

1. Who do you want to be?

2. What do you want to do?

3. What do you want to learn?

Students spent 15 minutes writing, and then we each shared one that felt most inspiring to us.

One student named that she wanted to succeed in trying out for the traveling youth roller derby team. Another said he wanted to feel more comfortable reading and writing in front of others, since he is challenged with dyslexia.

When we were finished with the go-around, I posed the question: What is the most important thing to know about New Year’s resolutions?

One kid said “They’re hard!” and another kid said, “Most people don’t succeed.”

“Nope,” I said. “The absolute most important thing to remember is that even if you make a list of 20 resolutions and don’t succeed on ANY of them, YOU ARE STILL 100% LOVABLE!

Ah! You should’ve seen their faces.

Tangible relief.

In a world that is constantly telling us that we are not enough — not smart enough, not thin enough, or not cool enough (and so on) — it’s important to remind each other that we are fantastic exactly as we are!

Working toward goals is a worthwhile and exciting endeavor, but knowing your worth is even better.


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Guest blogger Emily Zionts is a social justice and peace educator who is co-founder of Root Down Rise Up, faculty/guide for Wayfinding Academy, an educator for The Institute of Permaculture Education for Children, and an educator and day program manager for Village Home. She has an M.A. in Peace Education and lives in Portland, Oregon.