Caitlin Ahern

English communication in Graz, Austria

New Year’s Resolutions for Better Teaching

It’s a bit late to chime in about New Year’s resolutions, but since I spent New Year’s Eve on a beach in Florida, soaking up sun and time with my family, this week marks the beginning of the working new year for me. 

One of the best things about being a teacher is that you always have new beginnings – every September, every January, and often in between as classes end and new ones begin. My dozens of students also provide tons of feedback to help me improve from semester to semester. So now, with a new year AND some new classes starting up, here is how I vow to make 2013 better than ever:

Reading Pile

Just one of the many piles…

1) Carve out time to read, and defend that time. It’s so easy to get sidetracked with other work, errands, emails, etc. But reading makes me a better teacher, provides me with relevant lesson ideas, and simply makes me happy. So in addition to “fun” reading time, I will try to read a magazine or newspaper (instead of my email) every morning at breakfast and every night before bed (even if it’s only 10 minutes).

2) Swap ideas with colleagues at least once a semester. Last year I had a great time swapping lesson ideas and materials with two of my friends who also teach English. It’s so helpful to share what works – and learn about things I thought would NEVER go well, but they said were great!

3) Do anything other than teaching. I find that I get the MOST ideas when I am doing anything other than teaching. With my translating and editing I am exposed to a lot of ideas from all kinds of industries – also a source of great ideas. But the most concentrated burst of creativity came last February, when I worked for a friend at the Berlin Film Festival. Somehow, just doing something completely different with a friend who is NOT an English teacher and doesn’t speak German or live in Austria gave me tons of new ideas for teaching. Life is funny that way. 🙂 

4) Renew my subscription to The New Yorker. After picking it up from time to time while living in New York and Connecticut, I started reading religiously after moving to Austria. For those of you who don’t know it, The New Yorker has some of the best writing of any weekly magazine. It’s the kind of magazine in which you can pick up an article that would never interest you elsewhere, but after the first paragraph you are hooked and end up learning something new.

5) Use the blog more! This is a bit of self-promotion, but I need to post more and use the blog with my students. Hey, we are well into the 21st century after all… 😉


I would love to hear from you – any tips on keeping your resolutions? What would add to this list?

7 comments on “New Year’s Resolutions for Better Teaching

  1. Brigitte Fischer
    January 9, 2013

    Hi Caitlin, to help you with your 5. resolution……it’s necessary to read the blog now…and actually to use it :
    I send to you my resolution, or better….how you said in class….my tip forwarded to youngsters:
    try to find always something tiny, but special in common things or common situation. There exists a small “Goldbrösel” in any average day, when communicating with people, reading something, cooking or doing the household chores or even just doing “nothing” like thinking,relaxing or having a rest. After having found the ” tiny goldnugget ” it will make every day precious and special!
    I for myself make the resolution that I’ll think about this advice as well, as I keep forgetting it quite often.

    Have a nice week
    Brigitte 2nd

    • caitahern
      January 10, 2013

      Brigitte, This is wonderful, thank you! My golden nugget yesterday was getting to see you all again – such a warm, happy class! Looking forward to hearing the rest of your advice!

  2. cinemarcia
    January 9, 2013

    I was hoping you would mention Berlin on this list! Though I disagree, you were definitely still teaching – those silly conversation we had were by far the best foreign language lessons I have ever received. Maybe the resolution shouldn’t be “do anything other than teaching” but rather “teach while reconnecting with old friends and eating pretzels” 😉

    • caitahern
      January 10, 2013

      And sauerkraut! Maybe you’re right, but you were a most gifted student, determined to use “extrem laut” & “unglaublich nah” in every sentence. Thank you for inspiring me! 😉

  3. Elisabeth Oswald
    January 15, 2013

    Because of our discussion about new nears resolutions I realized that I didn´t think about until this lesson. I found out, that because of this so busy time at Christmas, I wasn´t really ready to think about any changes I should make.

    But there is a prayer I like so much I really recommend it to all.

    Serenity prayer:
    God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
    The courage to change the things I can,
    And wisdom to know the difference.

    (by Reinhold Niebuhr – American Theologian)

    Looking forward to the lesson tomorrow,
    Elisabeth Oswald

  4. Havilande
    February 3, 2013

    Hi Caitlin- I love your blog and just looked at all of the posts!
    I’m going to try commenting, although I’ve never done this before. Try something new!

    My tips for any type of “resolution”- if you’re making it, that means its a change from what you’ve been doing, and change is hard because it usually involves habits- for me anyway !
    So- I don’t set too many because then I get overwhelmed and give up on all of them one by one. I try to set one or 2 achievable goals. I write them down, and the next step is accountability. Who knows if I do them or not? Only me! So I try to keep a small notepad like a logbook. If I’m trying to do something every day, or twice a week, then I write it down there and it makes me see if I’m keeping that agreement with myself. It works well at least for things I’m trying to do like “exercise more often”. Or “go to bed earlier”
    Because its written there in black and white and keeps me focused. Then that new thing will become a habit if you can do it for more than a month.
    This is probably more info than you want in a comment, but I have a friend who has studied habits and resolutions and we talk about this. She says that if you can do something for 28 days- 4 weeks, it can become a new habit and then you won’t have to think about it, it will just be part of your life.

    • caitahern
      February 6, 2013

      Wow, only 28 days? I need to try that with my voice exercises then! Last year I wrote down some goals and hung them above my desk and actually did them all – a first for me. I think having them staring down at me was a good motivator. Thanks for the tip!

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