10 New Year’s Resolutions for the Aspiring Progressive Principal and Teacher

TALK OF TOMORROW | by Ted Fujimoto

There are specific things you can resolve to do—starting now—that will begin to make a huge difference in changing the education experience of kids in your community. These are definitely not end-all solutions, but will be a significant step forward at a practical, grass-roots level. We’ve all heard stories of successful adults who faced what appeared to be insurmountable childhood family and education disadvantages attribute their success to that one or two teachers who cared about them, believed in them, and pushed them to not give up. A million kids could be impacted for life if only 1/3 (100,000) of educators made these New Year’s resolutions.

I will calibrate. Visit three of the greatest high-performance schools in the country.   Learn from the best. It will energize you to see and recalibrate your perspective about what is possible.

I will be a vision builder. Get 10-25 of your colleagues and community members to visit at least one high performance school. It’s no fun trying to make change and create a new vision all by yourself. Involve others and your community to work toward a common vision about what is possible in your school and your community.

I will inspire. Talk to one child per day about their dreams and that you believe in their ability to succeed and reach their dreams. Discipline should not be the only time a child gets one on one attention—and a very negative one sided relationship. Spend time focusing on what kids are capable of doing—it will surprise and inspire you as you inspire them. This will impact 280+ kids per year.

I will create positive memorable experiences. Do two significant things that will directly support or facilitate student-led projects to solve real-life community problems that help kids learn how to learn, work in teams, critical, and give back.

Aren’t you tired of all the focus on teaching to the “test”? Guess what—kids are sick of it even more than you are.  Give them something they will remember the rest of their lives—a project that they will learn valuable life skills along with academics.

I will be effective. Focus on what you can do with the limited declining resources and time you have versus focusing on what you can’t do. Aren’t you tired of hearing and saying, “If only we had more time, more money, then we could…” Change the dialog to, “We have X time and X money… What is the best way we can use it to really impact kids?” Some of the highest performing schools have less money, larger class sizes, worse facilities, and shorter days. They somehow figure out how to meet kids needs with what they have. Of course, more resources will help and they fight to get them, but they don’t use “lack of resources” to get in the way of their mindset to not let any one kid fail.

I will remove clutter. Identify three policies or processes to eliminate that get in the way of helping kids and advocate for them to be changed. Many of these policies and processes were put in place with good intentions, but many are outdated and layered on each other in conflicting ways—losing their effectiveness. What things are getting in the way of great learning in the classroom? Your list is probably long. Pick ones you know your school could implement and start working on getting those done.

I will not accept failure. Pick 10 of the most struggling kids you know and get to know them and their families by visiting them at their home. Identify one thing their family has the capacity to do to help their kid.  This in itself may be the difference between a kid dropping out or staying in school. You are changing lives when you do this.

I will lead. Implement one classroom or school culture ritual that communicates to your kids high expectations and to help kids focus their ability to succeed at the highest level where failure is not an option and habits of the mind that leads to success.

I will connect. Always greet each kid you work with by name looking them in the eye—every time. Every human wants to be recognized and not be a faceless egg or number.

I will celebrate. Look for and celebrate one amazing thing per day that a kid has done and make sure their peers know about it and can celebrate with them.

Cheers to an amazing inspiring year as a progressive education leader!


Ted Fujimoto helps communities and school districts create and support 21st-century schools. As an entrepreneur and consultant, he has helped develop business strategies for Bay Area Coalition of Essential Schools, Big Picture Learning, Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, Partnership for Uplifting Communities, Linking Education & Economic Development, California Charter Schools Association and the New York Charter Schools Association. His work represents more than $150 million in funding. He was instrumental in designing and founding Napa New Technology High School and the New Technology Foundation that now comprises 62 schools nationwide, with dozens of new schools opening by Fall 2010. Write to: tedf@consultLandmark.org

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