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We all celebrate the start of a new year in different ways. Some people throw big parties with noisemakers and confetti, some travel to watch the ball drop in Times Square, others celebrate by giving hugs and cheers.

For some, it can also be quiet and very personal, a time of reflection for the year that has passed, remembering loved ones, pausing to appreciate all we have, no matter how much or little, and setting goals for the year that is about to begin.

Regardless of how we acknowledge the beginning of a new year, it marks the start of something new and special. It is an ideal time to refresh and restart.

Joelle Hood, who works with educators, leadership teams, and entire organizations on mindfulness, team-building, and social and emotional learning, suggests we approach setting goals for the new year in a way that is connected with feelings rather than tasks.

“We tend to set the usual goals and resolutions — lose 10 pounds, get a better job, buy a house — but often we find that when we get those things we don't feel any better,” she explains. “We are still searching for that certain feeling, because we're not even sure how we want to feel.”

She advises turning goal-setting upside down.

“You can first take some time to look within and decide how you really want to feel — Bold? Creative? Connected? — and then create intentions or goals based on feeling the way you most want to feel,” she said.

In fact, this is a good time for all of us to reflect on the year that has passed and check for what has worked well and what needs more of our attention. Starting where Dr. Hood suggests, at the endpoint we hope to achieve, sounds like an effective way to shape the year’s journey.

Now is also the time for appreciating the best of 2018. To our educators, parents, business partners, first responders, neighbors, grandparents, extended family members and volunteers — you are all community treasures. For those of us who interact in our schools every day, we know how much the crossing guard, office manager, bus driver, playground supervisor, food server, counselor and other non-classroom personnel mean to our children. You are often the first person our children see in the morning and the last person they see at the end of the day. Your smile and greeting make all the difference.

As we take time to celebrate the new year, I send extra thanks to our teachers, who are in the middle of a much-deserved holiday as they prepare to enter into the second half of the school year. Teachers help shape students’ identities in school, encourage our children through meticulous planning, teaching, feedback and support. For our teachers, we are enormously grateful.

I’d like to give extra encouragement to students. The start of 2019, half-way through the school year, is a time to take stock of what habits you might continue, modify or even eliminate. We encourage all students to continue habits that have helped them in school, such as organizing work and planning ahead, and focusing on social circles that foster healthy relationships. You bring us all hope for our future and we believe in you.

We all could benefit from focusing on how we want to feel at the end of this coming year, and what it would take to get there. Students can consider leaning forward and resolving to make the second half of the school year even better than the first. I wish you the happiest of new years and all good wishes for a 2019 filled with peace and joy.

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Susan Salcido is Santa Barbara County Superintendent of Schools.

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