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Your One Word Theme for The Year [episode 27]


Click below to listen to your one word theme for the year:

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Morning Message: 

[00:54] The subject of your last text is the topic of your next lesson.

This was a fun topic with a variety of answers! Our next lesson topics would revolve around the kid who mows our lawn and how to pick out rugs. 

Our community has an even wider range of topics! Those include DIY home projects, breakfast foods, how a listener’s cat is very cute, Billy Joel, how not to be a sucky human, the movie Infinity War, CPR, and haircuts. Some of those would actually be very useful and many would just be for fun!

Here’s an overview of episode 27:

In many ways, the beginning of a new school year resembles what all of us celebrate at the start of a new calendar year in January, New Years. It’s a time for growth, new opportunities, goals, and essentially a fresh start. While we believe in all of the new possibilities, we’re not on board with traditional resolutions, but instead just one word. In today’s episode, we’re explaining your one word theme for the year and how impactful that will be for you.

The purpose of a one word theme is to try and capture what you want your new school year to hold. This one word will help you open the door for growth in your life, remind you what your goals and values are, and keep you centered and focused on your authentic self. Wow, who knew a word could do so much! 

Now the process of picking your one word theme can be just as powerful as the word itself. The process is a chance to reflect and focus on what matters the next few months or year in school, which creates a framework for identifying your goals for the school year. There’s no right way to pick your one word theme, for in the episode, we both share our processes, which are completely different. And that’s okay! Just remember to pick a word that truly embodies you, not something you think you should pick. 

We all love the idea of a fresh start and having goals, but don’t necessarily follow through with resolutions, which is why a one word theme is the perfect solution. It accomplishes all that you need and still provides room for growth and expansion in your life. So jump on board and join us in having a one word theme for the year!

In this episode on your one word theme, we discuss:

  • Why having a one word theme keeps you focused on your goals for the school year
  • We both share the process that we go through in picking a word theme for the year
  • Suggestions to help you pick a one word theme if you’re struggling
  • The drawbacks to choosing a word you think that’s what you should choose
  • Know this can take time! You don’t need to pick your word in one sitting

This week’s teacher approved tip:

[16:33] Find a way to make your one word theme easy to reference.

Just like with everything, in order to stick with a goal, diet, or resolution, you need to be reminded of it so you don’t forget it.

Beyond just the original sticky note, we share other ideas to keep your one word theme present in your life.

What we’re giving extra credit to this week:

[18:40] Heidi is giving extra credit to our podcast, particularly our Design Your Summer episode

[19:47] Emily is giving extra credit to Netflix show Never Have I Ever


If you enjoyed this episode, you’ll love these too:

Read the transcript for episode 27, Your One Word Theme for The Year:

Hey there. Thanks for joining us today. In today’s episode, we’re talking about why you should have a one word theme for the new school year. We start our episodes with a morning message just like we used to do at morning meeting in our classrooms. This week’s morning message is the subject of your last text is the topic of your next lesson. What are you going to be teaching about Heidi? I am going to be teaching about the kid who mows my lawn. He’s pretty shy so he’d probably be less than thrilled to be the subject of a lesson. What about you, Emily? I guess I’d be teaching about rugs. Oh, I love it. I know I’ve been helping my best friends make some decisions about a dining room rug situation. So I think that actually could be a very interesting lesson. You teach by area all kinds of things. We have some responses from our community. Sarah said DIY home projects. Mila said breakfast food. Oh, I’m on board. Sara B said how my cat is very cute. Carson said Billy Joel we love it. You could do the we didn’t start the fire be a whole lesson. Oh, I love that. Carrie Ann said how not to be a sucky human. Are we all probably need those lessons a good lesson. Naomi said Infinity War. Anna said CPR. Very good, very useful lesson. And Michelle said haircuts. We would love to hear your response to this and other questions over on Instagram at @2ndstorywindow. And that’s what the two or in our Teacher Approved Facebook group.

I can’t believe that we are already in the thick of back to school season. I swear it seems like we were just talking about ending the school year like a couple of days ago. Seriously, I swear that summer just goes faster every year. But as crazy stressful as back to school can be. I do love having that fresh start every fall. I’m definitely the same. Just having such a clear opportunity to invite growth and improvement. I think it’s one of the underrated perks of teaching, and probably the perfectionist in me. But I loved getting the chance to fix what went wrong the previous year. No, definitely, it kind of reminds me I feel like Back to School is the new New Year’s. Yeah, both times have that like sense of facing the months ahead and hoping we can make them a little happier and healthier, maybe more productive than the year before. We’ve got big goals at that time of year. And really because that first of the new school year is a lot like New Year’s Eve. One thing that I do in both January and September is to choose a word of the year to focus on, I actually do the same thing. Of course, we both do the same thing. So I guess we choose a word of the year, twice a year. It’s probably because we’re just so amazing at personal development that we just outgrow our words too quickly. It’s definitely not that we forget about them and need to pick something new because we’re off track, or you know, we get bored.

So maybe word of the year is not the perfect term for what we’re talking about. Yet. It’s probably more like a one word theme. But the idea either way is just to try and capture what you want your year to hold. And one reason I like choosing a one word theme is that it’s it’s like a gentle way to open the door to growth, instead of the rigidity of like New Year’s resolutions. I get too locked into doing resolutions perfectly, and then inevitably I fail at them. And so it just like I don’t even have any motivation to try. So a word of the year or one word theme is really much more useful for me. I agree. And I think the thing I like about a one word theme is that the word can expand to mean something even bigger than what you initially thought it would be when you chose it. And having just one single word that you use to remind yourself of your goals and your values. I find it keeps you tethered to your authentic self, even when things are feeling crazy.

Yeah, it really acts as kind of like a touch point to just really keep you centered on what matters most to you. Yes. And so when it comes to choosing a word, I actually think that the process of choosing can be as powerful as the word you pick. If you take the chance to really focus and reflect, you can get a clearer sense of what matters most to you in the next few months that you’re heading into. And then once you’ve uncovered what matters most, you kind of have a framework for identifying the goals that you want to work on for the next year. So Heidi, how do you choose a word for the year it sounds like you have a very specific process for it, I would say I have less of a process. So I would love to hear your process. Well, I was looking around online before doing this episode. And there are lots of suggestions that kind of range from like people offering a full course that you can take to really dive into the word you’re picking and why you’re making it and how it can help you. Or you know, some people just say they choose a word that jumps out at you. My process is probably somewhere in the middle. I feel like a lot of years, my word ends up finding me that kind of sounds a little woowoo. But it seems to work in December. And then again in August, if I’m choosing two words. I try to pay attention to any word that seems to stand out to me. And then I also start asking myself things like, what do I need right now? What do I need going forward? And then if I still don’t have a clear direction, some years are trickier than others I started reflecting on the previous year, I dig into things I want more of in my life and things I want less of, I try to envision how I want to grow in the next year. That’s maybe the key question. And by that point, I usually have a few candidates. So I give them maybe like a test run. I want to know which words feel right, and also which ones I’m excited about. I know I’m on the right track, if I have a word that offers a little thrill that I could be unlocking some hidden possibilities for my future. And then once I’ve narrowed the list down to just two or three finalists, I like to envision what choosing that word would mean for my day to day life. So how would that word help me show up in more impactful ways. And I’ve never really thought about all the steps I take until I had to write it down for this podcast. And it’s always just something I’ve done mentally. But I think maybe going forward, I should try writing it down. I think I’d probably get more out of it. Yeah, you’re making me think maybe I should be doing a more purposeful exercise. But I’ll be honest, I don’t really have a specific process for this. Often, I feel like when I think about what I want my theme to be a word just immediately comes to mind. The times that it doesn’t I think about my values and where my life might not be aligning with those values right now. And that usually brings at least a specific goal area to mind. And I can start thinking of words that would capture that goal in a simple way. Usually, when I think of the right word, I just know that it’s right. And then I just pick it and go forward.

So there really is no right process for doing this. And maybe you’re like Emily, and you just know the word you need. But if you need some support, here are some suggestions that can help you. You could try making a list of things you want to work on in the next year and then identify some common themes that could tie that list together. You could make a list of words that speak to how you want your year to feel, and then choose one of those words that feels right to you. And if you feel like you can’t make a list of words, you could look up a list of words of emotion words, and that might strike a chord with you there. And there are lots of suggestions online, I found lots of people offering them it was a little tricky to Google because if you Google word of the year, it pulls up like you know in December when all the dictionaries are released. So you kind of have to like one word theme brought up some word of the year suggestions brought up some good ideas. I did find a couple like really long list of words that were not in alphabetical order, and now was just some chaotic energy I did not need. No way. No besides looking at lists, another option is to think about what kind of person you want to be. And then write down words that describe that person. And that gives you a good word bank to choose from. Oh, I love that one.

One thing I think it’s important to remember is you’ve got to avoid the trap of choosing a word because you think it’s the word you should choose. Your one word theme will be way more impactful if it speaks to your core identity. And one way you can know if you’ve chosen the right word is to ask yourself if you are interested in this word or if you are committed to it. Because if you are just interested, you will probably end up making excuses instead of putting an effort. But if you are committed, you are more willing to do whatever it takes to bring that word into your life. And if you haven’t done this before, it might take some trial and error to be able to distinguish between a word that is there to support as opposed to a word you wish were supporting you. My default is always to choose a word that’s going to maximize my productivity. In the past I’ve chosen words like fulfill and level up and those really did not end up benefiting me The result was they created some more tension in my life. And when I didn’t feel like I was measuring up to my ideal, I felt like a failure. I think I was so caught up in the idea of becoming the person, I thought I should be that I wasn’t open to growing as the person that I actually am. So you want a theme that’s going to help you move forward, but not something that’s trying to force you down a path that doesn’t fit you. So if you’re choosing a theme for the year, don’t put any pressure on yourself. And also don’t feel like you have to do this all in one sitting, it may take a few days or so to find something that resonates with you. It’s also important to make sure that you’re not locked into the idea of choosing the one perfect word with capital letters. First of all, there’s no perfect word. And second, you can change it at any point. And you don’t have to wait till January or September to launch a new one where theme, this is meant to support you not tie you down.

So let’s dive into our themes for this year. Heidi, do you want to tell us about your one word theme? So to back up in January, my theme for 2022 was honey. And I liked that it was kind of like abstract maybe made me think of like the people in my life that were important. You know, like love my honeys, people that I wanted to be connected with. It made me think of, you know, hard work and effort. And I think your Beehive State is showing Yeah. And like it was kind of fun, but I just really found that it wasn’t very useful. It was kind of hard to be like, Okay, well, honey, what does that mean in this moment? You know, kind of aspiration. Yeah, so I really am kind of ready for a change. There are two words that I’m leaning towards one is, and you’ll probably be surprised by this somewhat was Hygge. I saw some one of those lists I was looking at. And I thought oh, that’s fun. I like that. Like, if you’re not familiar hygge is a Danish concept is kind of translated as cosy, but it’s like more broad than that. It’s the idea of like lighting candles and having soft lighting and gathering together. And it’s a whole way of life. I’m impressed that you were confident in your pronunciation of the word too, because in the past, I have not felt that that word because it looks like it should be Higgy right or high G or something. H Y G G E. But this is where that question about are you interested? Or are you committed was key? Because I think I just am ready for fall. Yeah, I mean, I’m tired of it being 95 degrees and having itchy eyes and allergies. And I just want soup and sweaters and fall chocolate. Yes. So I was interested in hygge, but I wasn’t committed. So that left me with the other word. And I think this is the word I need, partly because it maybe makes me feel a little scared and vulnerable. And that word is trust. I need that I think as a reminder that, you know, everything’s gonna be okay, we have what we need, we have time to do what we need to do. Everything’s gonna work out. Because I’ve been, I don’t know, feeling more overwhelmed lately, back to school season hard for that. So I pick trust. And I think I think that’s the word I need. I like that. That’s exciting.

What about you, Emily, what is your word? I have to be honest, that my word just came to me immediately as soon as I started thinking about what I might want. And so this was a super simple word choice this year. That’s always nice. This year, I’ve been really finding myself more mindful of how busy my life is. And especially with my kids as they grow older, and they’re involved in so many things. I just started to realize that often I would hit the pillow at night and think back on the day and realize that really all we did together as a family was run from one thing to the next. I didn’t really like the way that that felt that so hard, because you guys are so busy. But kids are all stuff. Oh, good stuff. Yes. The problem isn’t the things we’re doing necessarily, but it’s the way we’re lacking in certain areas when we’re that busy. So, connection came immediately to mind as what I wanted to focus on the school year. I want connection to be top of my mind throughout my day. It’s guiding me to choose routines and schedules and even the way I arrange the furniture at my house to prioritize connection. And it’s making me more aware of little pockets throughout the day that I could make sure that we are working in some connection with each other instead of just getting caught up in the minutiae of a busy day. And the business of life is not going to magically go away. But choosing connection to focus on can help me be more intentional with how I spend my time particularly with my kids. I’m also using this word to remind myself about the phrase connection before correction. Because we’re so busy, I feel like it’s really easy to get caught up in getting on the kids cases all day long about what they need to do what they forgot to do. So I’m hoping that using the word connection to remember connection before correction, I can pause for a moment. And before I jump on a child’s case about their unfinished chore, I can reconsider the day and decide if I have connected with them yet that afternoon, and prioritize connection first before any correction. And also connection applies to my life outside of parenting as well. I’m making an active effort to connect more with the people I care about, even if it’s just by checking in on them with a text message when we’re all so busy, or making time to get together. Even though it feels impossible to do. I’m always so glad when we make the effort. I think this word is going to be the perfect choice for me this year. And I can already tell that it feels like the perfect word to connect me to my core values. And I can see that being really impactful for you and your family. And I’m grateful I get to connect with you.

So let us know what word you choose for your theme this year. You can find us in the Teacher Approved Facebook group, or on Instagram at @2ndstorywindow. And that’s with a two.

Now let’s talk about this week’s teacher approved tip. Each week, we leave you with a small actionable tip that you can apply in your classroom today. This week’s teacher proof tip is find a way to make your one word theme easy to reference. Heidi, tell us some ideas for this. So a key to being successful with your one word theme is to make sure that you can’t forget about it, as I have done some Yeah, because we’ve been doing this for a while. And so I guess we’ve we’ve learned all the tips and tricks we’ve tried to view. So to be successful with this, you really need to keep your word someplace where you’re reminded of it frequently. And I actually think this is the fun part, you can just put on a sticky note and put it somewhere where you can see it every day that is totally awesome. But you could you know, get a little creative with it. So because I look at my phone 50 times, 30 million times a day, I put an image from Morgan Harper Nichols, because you know, I love her as my lockscreen. And so every time I pick up the phone, that’s the first thing I see. And it’s a photo of the moon and then the words rest and trust. So I see that. And automatically that comes right to mind. I have the idea of making a playlist because I know I had done that with a word in the past. And I thought that would be fun. But then when I was looking for songs about trust, they’re all about like trusting after a breakup or something. So that’s not the right vibe. But maybe I’ll find something down the road if your word fits a playlist idea. That’s a fun activity. Yeah, I think I want to do that. That’s a good idea. Uh, yeah, connection would be a good one for that. I think I might make a Pinterest vision board. I found that when they I like vision boards, but I don’t have giant poster boards or magazine sign random. So Pinterest works great for me. But I like the process of doing that because it gives me a clearer idea of like, what this word really means to me, and how I’m looking for it to show up in my life. So those are my ideas. What about you, Emily? Any other ideas? Well, I know Etsy can help you out with this, you can order a ring or a bracelet or keychain with your word on it. Or you can get a piece of art for your house that has your word. And that’s awesome. We would love to hear what word you choose and what you’re going to do to keep our front of mind.

To wrap up the show we’re sharing what we are giving extra credit to this week. Heidi, what are you giving extra credit to this week? I am giving extra credit to our podcast. Right. A few months ago, we did some episodes about planning your summer. And that was really kind of like the first time I sat down and really thought about what I needed for my summer. And that has actually been so helpful to me. I don’t know if it’s been helpful to a single other person. But it has been huge for me because this is the first time going into September since 2015 that I have not had a flare up of my autoimmune disease. And I will lay that squarely on planning how we were going to manage the summer in the back to school stress. And so I was in coming from such a place of like strength and clarity that I was able to like make good decisions even when the panic was setting in and I think that it’s just made such a difference I have no idea what September’s like when I’m not in a hazy brain fog so this is fun. Well now I’m excited to plan our summers again next year. We know works now yeah, we definitely have to do it so hopefully for other people do not just us. Emily, what are you giving us your credit to? Well mine seems a little fluffy now. I should have gone first, but I’m giving extra credit to the Netflix show. Never Have I Ever. It’s just delightful. I don’t even want to describe it to you because I can’t do it justice but it is so clever and such a warm hearted, enjoyable half hour comedy to watch and the third season just came out and I just barely finished it if you want to talk about it hit my DMs but definitely giving extra credit to Never Have I Ever. That’s a fun one.

That’s it for today’s episode, we hope you will take the time to choose a one word theme and let us know what it is. And don’t forget today’s teacher approved tip to find a creative way to keep that word top of mind.

More About Teacher Approved:

Do you ever feel like there’s just not enough time in the day to be the kind of teacher you really want to be? The Teacher Approved podcast is here to help you learn how to elevate what matters and simplify the rest. Join co-hosts Emily and Heidi of Second Story Window each week as they share research-based and teacher-approved strategies you can count on to make your teaching more efficient and effective than ever before.