As 2018 drew to an end, I began the ritual I had started about five years ago. In fact, former English teacher Erin Bach and I discovered this practice together and it has become our tradition ever since. We choose just one word for the year. This word becomes a focus for creating goals and setting intentions. In the past my words have been: “create,” “engage,” “slow,” “balance,” and “gratitude.” Each word held significance for that time in my life. The word I choose becomes a mantra for the year, a reminder of what I want to develop. Balance, for example, was something I desperately needed when it came to work and life. As a result, I spent more time grading at work which left me more personal time at home. When I chose “create,” I was looking for more time to write. I wrote early in the morning and actively sought out prompts. That was the year I had three articles published. This is the power of choosing your word for the year.

What if we take this same concept and apply it to our teaching lives?

Last semester we focused on personalized PD and specified goals and outcomes. What if this semester you choose JUST ONE WORD and make it your PD focus? The word can be used in many ways. You can focus on it and use it as a mantra, repeating it at the start of each day or each class. You can have the word written on a card and visible on your desk each day as a reminder of your focus. This one word can guide whatever it is you choose: your teaching, your interactions, your thinking, your planning, your grading, your behaviors, your words. For instance, the word I chose this year is “celebrate.” At first I was not thinking of it in terms of school, but in my personal life. However, it does apply to my teaching life and what I want to do more of in the classroom. I need to take the time to celebrate student achievements, both large and small, more often. Since my students are writing a great deal, I want to celebrate what they do well and not always focus only on what needs improvement. I know that celebration creates a sense of pride and gratitude. It also prompts self-reflection, a habit I want my students to develop. Finally, celebrating together helps to form community and forming a community of readers and writers was part of my personalized PD goal in the fall.

How to Choose the Right Word for You

First, you must take the time to reflect. I suggest writing as a reflective practice. Sometimes when you write, you discover more. Start off writing nonstop for 5 minutes. It doesn’t need to be perfect. You don’t need to write in complete sentences. You can write, draw, list, etc. Do what comes naturally (no one is grading this!). Here are some questions to choose from to get you started: How did first semester go? What went well? What need improvement? How did I feel about myself as a teacher? What do I want to keep moving into the spring? What was the best lesson? What would I change about the class? About myself as a teacher? About my routines? About grading? About how I deliver content? About how I give feedback? About what I ask students to do? About how I assess?

Next, re-read what you wrote. What stands out? Highlight or underline the words/terms/lines that resonate the most with you. Now write one more time and answer these prompts: Describe an ideal day in your classroom. What qualities do you want to develop as a teacher? Write for 5 minutes uninterrupted.

Finally, re-read what you wrote, highlight and compare to your previous words. What themes are emerging? From here you can begin to choose a word. It may be one you wrote or another one that comes to mind once you re-read. If you need ideas you can check out OneWord365.com or search the hashtags #MyWord #MyWord2019 or #OneWord365. I also have a list below! Once you have your word chosen, spend a few minutes writing about what it means and set your intentions for the spring semester.

Patience, Simplify, Organize, Courage, Relax, Innovate, Create, Engage, Connect, Reduce, Respond, Balance, Appreciate, Stretch, Grow, Trust, Flourish, Empower, Persevere, Purpose, Consistency, Love, Strength, Positivity, Minimize, Inspire, Rediscover, Discover, Reimagine, Mindful, Intentional, Kindness, Fun, Joy, Release, Open, Authentic, Thrive, Communicate

Share your word with us!

Leave a comment with your word and the significance of the word for your teaching life.



  1. Persevere-even when the work is hard, keep trying and don’t give up. In the end you will be very proud of yourself for your accomplishments. This is an excellent lesson in life, not just math class.


  2. I thought about this constantly over the three-day weekend…my word for this teaching year is nurture. It seemed to me initially that it might be too sappy, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it reflects my newer approach to grading, giving writing feedback, and encouraging standards mastery. It encompasses teaching students valuable analysis and communication skills, while encouraging them to find the styles, authors, and abilities that they are personally drawn to. It’s more about finding the positive and providing safe spaces to grow.


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