What's your 'One Word'?

By Karen on January 27, 2017
Posted to Leadership

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24 one word header

In the southern hemisphere, new school years are starting. Plans are being made and intentions established for the academic year ahead.  For those of you not enjoying summer with us, you too can engage in this process - any time is a good time to start!

I've been thinking about goal setting and learning targets as I finish the Assessment Ninja course. These are of course important elements of the planning process. As I researched, I found the One Word website and Twitter hashtag #OneWord. Captivated by the idea of a personal commitment to a One Word goal for the year, I've been thinking about what my word will be. 

The following are some of my favourite ideas, inspired by some great Tweets (from the Twitter hashtag: #OneWord). Words I considered:


A personal favourite, I feel a deep commitment to treating everyone in my life and work with the same deep respect, courtesy and attention. At work this means treating the part-time cleaner, the rascal student out of uniform, the parent with 'interesting' perspectives and my boss, all as capable, worthy humans. Integrity in our being is hugely important as people and role models. 


Looking at this Tweet I immediately thought of my passion for replacing the common shaming/behaviour management/punishment based responses to students' behaviour challenges and errors, with a focus on the learning opportunities presented by the patterns and mistakes. Tempting, open-ended choice. 


I was sorely tempted by this great word. We all know the power of optimism - in reframing challenge as opportunity and inspiring hope. Essential leadership kit bag disposition. 


All of us need hope! These are challenging times for educators. The US in particular faces some potentially worrying developments with the possible appointment of Betsy Devos - teachers are worried!


This one had great appeal as my doctoral study continues. My research area - student voice - keeps opening new possibilities and clarity about what will most effectively help teachers would be appreciated. 


We all lead busy lives. I run Teacher Solutions, Assessment Ninja, a number of free Facebook groups with 40K educators including: Let's Talk about Pedagogy, Importance of Leadership and Digital Technologies and Computational Thinking, study, work with preservice teachers and consult in schools. You're busy too! Stamina seems like a great word for educators in every role!


The word I almost chose was Courage. I was particularly inspired by the interpretation in this Tweet - that Courage encompasses Perseverance and Bravery. We all need Courage - to stand against the prevailing neoliberal pressures that attempt to standardise and limit our work. Courage to remember why we entered the teaching profession and Bravery to respond to students' learning needs in ways that will be helpful in uncertain futures. 

But, in the end I settled on gratitude.


I've been keeping a Gratitude Diary for many months now, and am recognising how much more attuned I am becoming to the wonderful people around me, how exciting my life is and how even small things contribute to progress. 
My New Years resolution was to be more expressively thankful, more present during acknowledgement and more explicit in my feedback. Day 26 of 2017 and going well. 

What will be your word?

Other possibilities I found or thought about (in addition to those in the header) include:

Involve Students

Why not do this exercise with your students too?
What might motivate them through the year?
What might you learn about your students as they identify their word?

Here's one group of young people's One Word:

Some other thoughts

  • Another great example: Kathleen shares her 2017 'One Word' thinking in this post.
  • Values: One Word might be something you tie to your school values. How students might enact them. How the values might come to life in the school with student help. Remember that it's their choice of course. 
  • There's civics and citizenship curriculum in Australia and many other countries. How might One Word support the learning outlined in these documents?
  • Most countries support student learning around key figures. Martin Luther King is a current foci. His life is a rich source of One Word inspiration. 
  • As a school leader, you might consider running this process with your staff, as an inspirational activity or as part of your supervision processes. You could have a whole staff one word, or facilitate so that individual staff members choose their own.
  • Just setting this process up won't be enough. Regular revisiting and reflection will be needed to renew the original commitment and recharge the behaviour choices that will bring One Word to life. 

Can I take this moment to express my gratitude for your readership, your interest in our work and your participation in our communities. Love to hear what you think and what word you chose on our Teacher Solutions Facebook page or in our Let's Talk about Pedagogy Facebook group. 

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