One Word

Lately I’ve been running a lot of miles on trails in the mountains. I’m training for a 100 mile trail race in October – what will be a huge challenge for me. I’ve come up with a mantra of sorts, a special word that keeps me going when I feel like cutting the run short or staying in bed instead of doing an early run. My word, grindstone, is not only the name of the race, but it also means “to work hard and perseveringly”. Saying this word motivates me, encourages me and keeps me on track to completing my goal. It reminds me of my commitment and helps me stay focused.

I like to do the same thing as I begin a new school year. Each year I choose a word to be my overarching reminder of what I envision for the upcoming school year. I put it on the cover of my notebooks, on my teaching table, in my planning notebook and around my room where I will see it. In years past I have used the words, balance, joy, energy, peace and breathe as my one word for the year. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this upcoming school year and figuring out what my word is. I’ve arrived at the word listen. I want to make sure I am truly listening to my students, my colleagues and my families this year. I love this Cuban proverb,

“Listening looks easy, but it’s not simple. Every head is a world.”

Listening will help me be more present with my students as they play, learn, share, are challenged and enjoy kindergarten. I hope being a better listener will enhance our community and allow my students to ask more questions, to wonder more and to learn to love school. Listening to families will help me understand where each family is coming from and what their concerns, wishes and thoughts are for their child. I hope it will encourage families to become a strong part of our school community, to feel like they are truly partners in their child’s education and to be comfortable in our school. Listening to colleagues will help me become a better teammate and collaborator and allow everyone’s strengths to shine and voices be heard. I hope it will help people feel more valued and respected.
It’s funny how reading Peter Johnston’s Choice Words and Opening Minds this summer have caused me to think deeply about the language and talk I use in the classroom. And how my final take away was that I need to be a better listener.

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.”

— Karl Menninger
What is your One Word for the upcoming school year?


  1. My One Little Word for 2013 is gratitude. This is a third year for having an OLW, but I haven’t ever done a One Word for the school year. Your post will have me thinking about whether my word for the regular year will tie into my school year vision or whether I want to have a separate school year word. I like that you post your word on your notebooks to keep it at the forefront of your mind.

  2. Katie-
    I love this idea! I participated in “One Little Word” for the New Year and chose “reflect” as my word for 2012. But I think synching this activity to the start of the school year makes perfect sense for teachers. Your choice of “listen” and all the reasons you listed was inspiring ( I may just have to steal that one for myself!) Good luck with your race!

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