What If You Just Said, "Yes"?

2017 was the first time that I picked a word to guide me for the year ahead. I liked the idea of the simplicity of that process - rather than a whole list of resolutions, streamlining things into one word of intention that would keep me focussed and moving forward.  I won’t share publicly on the blog the word I chose last year, but I WILL say that the Universe had a whole different definition of it than what I had intended in my own mind - and not at all in a way that worked with my plans and dreams for 2017. Things definitely did not turn out the way I had hoped with that one carefully chosen word. As a result, I was a little nervous to choose a word for 2018, fearing that I might face a similar situation with my new selection.

My friend, HyperDoc guru and amazing educator Lisa Highfill, tagged me in a post about a special “One Little Word” HyperDoc created by the equally outstanding educator, Sarah Landis.  It was beautiful and inspiring enough to convince me to revisit the value of this process and practice, to try it out with my students, and to choose another word myself.  I have embedded the HyperDoc below, but you can also access it at: http://bit.ly/onewordhd  As always with HyperDocs, please maintain credit to the original author in your copies or iterations.

While browsing my Twitter feed, I noticed others posting similar One Word activities, and sharing their own words for 2018, using the hashtag #oneword2018.  I was inspired by the great posts, the quality word choices, and the ideas for extending this activity.  There were beautiful graphic designs, amazing decorated doors, stellar sketchnotes, and much more to peruse. So much One Word goodness was being posted!  Another terrific One Word HyperDoc was shared by Meredith Akers on her website.  I definitely recommend you check it out as well. It is similar in idea to Sarah’s HyperDoc, but has a slightly different format for sharing out each student’s word. You can choose what might work best for your class - or possibly a mash-up of both! You can find Meredith’s activity details by clicking here.

Choosing a word does not have to be something that you do just at the beginning of the year.  I can see this being a powerful practice at the start of each month, each term or semester, or even each season of the year.  It might be something you do each year on your birthday, or at other pivotal times where you would like to refocus yourself.  It is never a bad time to stop, reflect, and move forward with intention. The word you choose is a great touchstone to come back to as you ponder next steps and consider how it has influenced the time in between choosing it and where you are now.  In British Columbia, where I live, our students are required to self-assess on a number of important core competencies.  The One Word activity could definitely tie very nicely into these reflections and assessments.

Maybe choosing a word is not your thing, but you would still like to have your students thinking about the year ahead and setting goals and intentions.  You might be interested in this additional activity that talented Texas educator Kasey Bell posted on her blog about creating digital vision boards.  I love this idea so much that I think my class will be doing it in addition to the One Word exercises!  You can find instructions and inspiration for Kasey’s vision board activity by clicking here.

I kept resisting picking my own word for 2018, but there WAS a word that kept showing up for me that was really resonating.  That word was, “Yes.”  It showed up when I had to decide whether to take a friend up on her incredible offer of a special, last minute vacation getaway.  It appeared in some beautiful meditations that I practiced from incredible teacher and author Tara Brach.  I kept finding it in articles and posts and books that I was reading.  It also showed up when Lisa tagged me in the post about the One Word HyperDoc, inviting me to reconsider choosing a word for this year and encouraging my students to join me. I have decided to let go of my fear from last year, say “Yes!” to the word, “yes”, and claim that word for my own this year. I am choosing to believe that "yes" means that good things will come to me when I release fear, try new things, choose to shift perspective and see the underlying freedom in situations that might feel like they are currently burdening me, and receive opportunities that are sent my way. My fingers are crossed that this year my word takes me places that are far better than I ever could have imagined.

If you are struggling to choose a word, even after looking through the great resources, inspiration, and word lists, maybe you should consider making up your own word? My thoughtful father recently came across and shared with me a really incredible TEDx talk by John Koening called, “Beautiful New Words to Describe Obscure Emotions” which might inspire you to start generating words of your own. John is the author of The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows where he shares the words he has created to describe things that have previously eluded a single expression to define them.  He also has a YouTube channel where you can view all of the videos for the words he has carefully and thoughtfully crafted. The videos are absolutely, breathtakingly, poetically beautiful.  “Socha” made my breath catch.  “Sonder” touched my heart.  I have posted it below. Sonder means, “The realization that everyone has a story.”  What do you hope your story will look like in 2018? What word will you choose to represent it this year?

Have you chosen a word for 2018?

Have you tried doing a one word or vision boarding activity to start the new year with your students?

Do you have any other great activities that you like to use to start a new month, year, term, semester, or season in your classroom?

Please share in the comments below, or join our Facebook group and tell us your stories there!  Your voice and ideas are important and valued. 

Look Fear in the Eye

A little over a year ago, I first saw the video below, and was really moved by its message.  I was struck by the fact that all it really takes to truly connect with another human being is the willingness to look into their eyes for a few minutes.  It's really that simple.

It is easy for us to maintain disconnection with another group of people - whether it be our rival school in another part of our own town, or citizens of another country - if we don't know enough about them to relate to them as human beings.  We might hear stories or rumours about these groups of people from others, on social media or in the news, and choose to believe them. We might even start to build upon these misperceptions in our own minds, to the point where we believe that we are different enough from them to begin to fear them.

It is almost impossible to feel separate from other human beings once we have spent some time looking into their eyes. We realize that they are people with feelings, with families, with hopes and dreams. They have stories to share, perspectives we may not have considered, and gifts to offer. We quickly find that we are more alike than different, and that connecting with each other long enough to have a conversation and maintain eye contact for a few minutes can help our fear disappear.

I challenge you to make this the year that you find out which groups your students know less about than they think, and find a way to connect your class with them in order to learn more about them as people.  Could you find a partner class to do a Mystery Hangout , Connected Collaboration, or Empatico connection with? Are you inspired to video conference, share blogs or websites, and/or write letters to students in another part of the world? Would you consider using the cloud as your global campfire, and allow your students to share stories from their cultures and communities with a group that would reciprocate and teach you about theirs? Would your group benefit from a connection with organizations or experts around the world through a site like the Digital Human Library? Are you willing to take a deeper dive into social issues with middle/high school students through a Global Nomads Group program? 

There are so many ways to connect your students with other people in their own communities and around the world. Technology can be leveraged in a multitude of ways to support these types of collaborations. We no longer need to be in the same room to look other people in the eye, develop empathy, and get to know them on a completely different level.  Geography and/or proximity are no longer barriers or excuses.  Please consider planning at LEAST one of these types of projects this school year. Be courageous enough to try something different, reach out to others who at first seem different from you, and look them in the eye. You just might find that you start eliminating the four letter word of "fear" in your classroom, and end up with a much more rewarding "F word" in your vocabulary as a result: FRIENDS.

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