Focus: Two Important Questions to Ask Yourself


That’s my word for 2020. 

It might seem cliché, considering the year we’ve just begun. As in, perfect focus is 20/20 vision and such. Regardless, I decided there’s no better time to think about my focus than this year. 

Like you, I know what the word means, but I decided to look it up in the dictionary to see if the definitions there would shed any new light on this term. Here’s what I found:


1. a central point, as of attraction, attention, or activity: The need to prevent a nuclear war became the focus of all diplomatic efforts.
2. Physics. a point at which rays of light, heat, or other radiation meet after being refracted or reflected.

verb (used with object)
3. to bring to a focus or into focus; cause to converge on a perceived point: to focus the lens of a camera.
4. to concentrate: to focus one’s thoughts; to focus troop deployment in the east.

verb (used without object)
5. to be or become focused: My eyes have trouble focusing on distant objects.
6. to direct one’s attention or efforts: Students must focus in class.


There weren’t any surprises in these definitions, but I particularly like numbers 1 and 6. 

I don’t know about you, but during the busyness of life, it is easy to get distracted from my central focus. Balancing family and work responsibilities is challenging, and sometimes just keeping everything going takes all of my attention. Days and weeks of this plate-spinning effort can mean I look up and realize my focus is not where I want it to be. I am not directing my efforts to the most important things.

This year…

I want to be intentional about pausing to re-focus. In order to consider where my focus is daily, weekly, or monthly, I’ll think about these questions. 

What is the central point of my attention or activity during the day? 

To what or whom am I directing my efforts? 

I’ve never been good about journaling, so I know that’s not a realistic way for me to track these efforts. (Although it works for many people, perhaps even for you.) Instead, I will schedule a “focusing” appointment on my calendar at random times during the month. I will also post the word Focus in various places at home and work. These will remind me to stop and think about the central point of my attention and whether my efforts are being directed appropriately. If not, it’s time to find a way to adjust my focus.

Professionally, my focus is on the educational lives of English learners. There are two areas where I hope to center my efforts in 2020:

  1. Inspiring my undergraduate students to develop a passion for teaching their future ELs well. Encouraging them to focus on the humans around them in class rather than their social media accounts.
  2. Making Dear Dr. Mooney content even more relevant for members of this community.

Teachers have so many things vying for their attention at school every day, and sometimes English learners get pushed out of focus. If you find this may have happened to you, give some thought to what you can do to re-direct your focus back onto the students who drew you into teaching in the first place.

What about you?

What’s the central point of your attention and activity today?
Where are you directing your efforts?
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