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I’ve never been much of a New Year’s Eve person . . . maybe it’s the teacher in me, or now the mom, but my new year always starts in September.

There is something magical about the chill in the air at night, the earlier sunsets, the occasional smell of a bonfire outside, new clothes crisp with the tags still on, and brand-new school supplies that haven’t yet been tarnished by the ins and outs of the year. Everything feels like a cozy new start. Another chance. A clean slate.

Sometimes in September, I even make a few resolutions. When I was a young teacher, I would make a whole list of goals, but with time and kids, I’m now down to one word. I choose a word to focus on for the year. This year, my word is joy.

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When I was a new teacher, I was filled with joy. I was patient. My classroom was noisy. My classroom management was not great. My lessons weren’t always winners. During these early years, though, I know I made the most connections with students. I wanted to be there, I loved coming to workand students felt that. In my early teaching years, I made a lot of mistakes, but I also made a difference. The students might not have learned as much from my younger self, but I know the joy I carried made an impact. The relationships I created were real.

As a new parent, I was quite the opposite. My insecurity, my worry, the pressure—all stole my joy of being a mom. It was so hard. As parents, there is so much pressure to be productive, to do it all (whatever “it” may be). Now, having been a mom for just over a decade, I see the importance of letting go of that productivity and perhaps getting some joy back. I have school-aged children now, and I feel time slipping away. This year, while my kids are little, I want them to feel that their mom is joyfulif that means I’m less productive, then I’m okay with that. (That’s what I remind myself anyway.)

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As I think about teaching, maybe I need to think back to when I was a wide-eyed newbie making joyful mistakes and deep connections and get back to that somehow. Maybe the pressures of mandates and meetings have worn teachers down so much that the reasons we went into teaching are now at the bottom of our to-do list.

As parents, maybe we need to surrender to some messes, some missed opportunities, some lazy moments, and in doing so, become more joyful. At least, I know I do.

My word for the new year is joy. Maybe your word is different. Maybe your experience is different. That’s okay.

To teachers and parents everywhere: I wish you the happiest new year.

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Krystal Sieben

Hi, I'm Krystal. Minnesota wife and mom of three great kids, three rescue dogs, and a Fjord horse named Syver. Former middle school teacher turned nonprofit director. A chance meeting with a special horse changed my path, and I now run Three Little Burdes Nonprofit. Our goal is to provide adults and children of all abilities with an introduction to ponies and horses. Check us out!

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