First of all, the choice of the word “continual” is deliberate: when I was a student at university, and later a teacher of English, it was drilled into me, and then in turn into my unwitting (and perhaps eye-rolling) students that the word “continual” conveys the sense of an act or thought performed repeatedly. “Continuous” on the other hand means something done without cessation. And the theme of this blog entry, at the beginning of January, a time when people consider beginnings, is the usefulness (for me, at least) to view occasions such as the new year or similar moments in the year, as an opportunity to consider plans and purposes afresh.
So many opportunities for reviewing and reconsidering one’s goals and plans occur, that in some ways the test is to have some that endure. At the same time, a purpose that is too unwavering has its risks also: have we really thought about this, or are we doing it simply because it has been done before, has been done by others, and was always done? Our teachers begin each school year, for instance, with the process (for some an ordeal, for some a delight) of setting their professional goals for the year, and discussing them with their respective Directors. The best results are gained by those who pursue this self-examination most sincerely. It is part of our evaluation and professional growth programme, and it has evolved over the past decade into an automatic part of our teachers’ lives at the school. Not everyone always views this process as entirely and continuously valuable, but its imperfections are always under construction, and the spirit of it is not just improvement of the school, but self-improvement.
New years, new books (Christmas presents?), new friends, and the fresh resumption of things we have done before. I am not in favour of new year’s resolutions, a comment I hope doesn’t disappoint too many readers. I am in favour, though, of continual review, questioning and planning, so that our purposes are deliberate and fresh. To use a quotation whose assistance I have called upon before: the unexamined life is not worth living.