Choosing “One Little Word”

I ran across the idea of one little word a week or so ago when a teacher in my PLN tweeted about having her class do the exercise. She included a link to another person’s blog that touched more on the concept that has apparently been around for a couple years – a linguist’s New Year’s Resolution of sorts.

I needed something easy (and inspiring didn’t hurt) for the first couple days of the new year while I finished one-on-one conferences I’d started before the break. This fit the bill.

I explained the concept to my freshmen, and as I often do, I provided my own sample. I did confess that unlike them, I’d had the chance to think about my choice for a few days. I also shared that while I had intended to write my journal entry (later to become a blog post for me and for them as well), I’d not gotten around to it until the night before. As I lay in bed going over my plans for the next day, I realized I hadn’t written the entry. I began planning it in my mind. Finally, I couldn’t sleep until I got up and wrote what I had been writing in my head. I wanted to demonstrate for them that getting your ideas down is the first step, that the act of writing generates thoughts. Once you start, a stream of new thoughts can come along, if you allow it.

I also had to remind them that I am wordy (you can tell, right?), a fault I (sometimes) work to correct. They are baffled that I first have to write a piece long and then go back and edit it down. I promised that they did not have to write as much as I did, but that the writing should show a process of thought along the same lines. Below is what I shared with them:

One little word. But so many choices. I went through many options before I decided.

Decide.

Act.

Do.

Make up your mind.

Well, “do” is too short, and not pretty at all. “Make up your mind” is immediately disqualified because it isn’t  one little word. “Decide” just sounds demanding, and I need something gentler.

I know what my problem is, if it isn’t clear by now. I have a hard time making decisions. I once had someone make an observation about me saying, “you like to keep your options open.” That’s true.

If I get an invitation, I usually respond with “I’ll think about it and get back to you.” That means I don’t know if I’ll want to do the thing when it’s time or something better might come along, I just plain don’t know. So I put off making a decision.

Same thing goes for a Saturday morning. I wake up and the day is full of possibilities. I think of a long list of things I could accomplish with the hours stretching before me. I make that pot of coffee before anyone is awake and I sit down at my computer.

I check Facebook.

I check Twitter, which takes longer, because I click on all kinds of blogs and articles to read. I might even read something that inspires me to write a blog post of my own – which isn’t nothing, I might add.

But before I know it my stomach is growling and the clock tells me it’s almost noon. I’m still in my pajamas. I fix a late breakfast or an early lunch, depending on what’s in the refrigerator and who is home that weekend. Then I take a shower. Then I put in a load of laundry. Suddenly I’m sleepy because the morning’s caffeine has caused me to crash and whatever carb overload I just had for lunch didn’t help.

So I nap.

When I wake, I’m lucky to make a grocery store dash or run another load of laundry.

But did I grade a pile of papers? No.

Did I clean out any closets? No.

Did I bake any cookies? No.

Did I get my mess of a checkbook unmessed? No.

Did I start writing my great American novel? Heck, no.

The reason? I didn’t choose to do any of those things. I left my options open.

So my word is “Choose.”

I need to choose what I’m going to accomplish each day. That probably means I need to write it down. Wouldn’t hurt to have the word “Choose” in a few strategic places as a reminder.

How else can I apply “Choose?”

I can choose to be satisfied with how I’ve done on a particular day. I can choose to avoid a negative situation when I come upon it rather than try to enter in and regret it. I can choose to do something especially nice for someone and make his or her day. I can choose all kinds of things if I just make it a point to consciously “Choose.”

Now that the rush of getting first semester grades posted is over, I hope to get a chance to peek at their notebooks tomorrow to see what they have come up with. I know at least a couple of them rushed to get their ideas up on blogs, so even if all were not enthused, I believe a few appreciated the idea.

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About teachjournalism
I am a high school teacher of journalism, technology and reading. I advise the school's newspaper and yearbook, both student-led publications. Documenting and sharing my experiences is a way of reflecting to improve my own work and and inviting commentary so that we might all benefit. I believe, as I tell my students each year, that we all learn from each other.

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