To the Vinton-Shellsburg School Community from Superintendent Kyle Koeppen:
It is January and we are turning the page on the calendar from the year 2020 to 2021. I have seen and read much resentment around 2020 given all the negativity which has occurred within it and how most people are eager to turn to 2021. But, as we turn the calendar, are we prepared to make the changes necessary to improve ourselves in the new year?
As a reporter in Afghanistan, Charles Duhigg observed the power of habit in successful military operations. He used these observations as an entry into his New York Times bestseller The Power of Habit. The book demonstrates in great detail the science behind how habits impact every aspect of our daily lives. “When you woke up this morning, what did you do first? Did you hop in the shower, check your email, or grab a donut from the kitchen counter? Did you tie the left or right shoe first? Did you choose a salad or hamburger for lunch? When you got home, did you put on your sneakers and go for a run, or eat dinner in front of the TV? Most of the choices we make each day may feel like the products of well-considered decision making, but they’re not. They’re habits.”
Duhigg writes that to create lasting change, it’s more effective to target our habits. “Almost 40 percent of our actions each day are the result of habits, not decisions. Habits emerge without our consent. To save energy, the brain creates a habit loop that looks for a trigger to cue a behavior. You can replace old habits with new ones by shifting routines, but only belief will keep you from relapsing.” Everyone relapses to old habits in times of stress but the key to not ditching your new habits completely is the belief that you can stick to them.
In the book, Duhigg offers ideas for forming new useful habits. In summary, willpower can be learned, although it needs exercise, like a muscle. Throughout the day, our willpower gets exhausted. It’s why we’re more likely to cave into bad cravings at dinner or why most extramarital affairs begin after work. Just like our muscles, willpower needs to be gradually trained to get stronger.
These habit rules apply to school as well. Teachers know and understand the power of routine and common procedures in the classroom. Students perform and respond better when they know the expectations and the environment is consistent from day to day. Recently, our elementary schools and middle school reviewed student progress monitoring data from ongoing interventions. These interventions occur on a routine basis and become a habit of the students’ school day. The data is promising, with tremendous gains since the start of the school year. To see real change occur, you have to stick to your plan and be patient over time. I’m excited to see the results at the end of the school year.
What is an area you would like to improve in this year? What habit could you target to help yourself make change and create a routine?
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out to me.
319-436-4728 ext. 5685