The beginning of the year is the best time to set goals. It is not only a clean slate for all the kids and the teachers, but there is a great deal of openness to achieve and grow. The whole year is in front of us!
First, let’s make sure we understand why we should set goals. Goals are important not just for growth, but for clarity of priorities. Like Steven Covey told us in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, we should all begin with the end in mind. By doing this, we know where we are headed and where we want to go—it gives us a target for the rest of the year. As we make progress (or don’t), we can adjust the goals as we go. But unless we know a destination, we can’t start down a path.
Measuring Your Goals
The goals we set should be able to be measured—this is sometimes why we fail to achieve goals. We set a goal, such as, “I want to be more patient with my class,” or “I want to be more positive.” These are great goals, but how will you know if you are successful at them? I believe almost anything we want to improve at can be measured, but sometimes we have to get creative to ensure there is a clear measurement in place.
Tracking data toward goals also helps us to pace ourselves. It’s great if we achieve a goal in five days, but most of the time, it takes slow, incremental growth and progress. Think about weight loss goals—those who are successful long-term lose weight slowly and over a longer period of time. Our school goals should be the same.
When I set goals at the start of the year, I always give myself “signposts” down the road to see how I am progressing. For example, every 20 days I might put a reminder on my calendar with a note for where I should be at that point. If I am to stay on the right track toward my destination, I need to watch the signs along the way to check to see if I am getting lost or staying on the right path.
Implementing Goals in Your Classroom
Here are some ideas for putting this into action in your school:
How does this look for students?
If you have any kind of RIT (Rausch Unit) process in your school, this may already be embedded. If not, it is something to make sure you start at the beginning of the year. Students can set goals for reading fluency, reading comprehension, number of pages read, math facts mastered, and many other skills. All of these are pretty easy to measure, and the students can even graph or chart their progress on their own. Some of the other importants skills that students need may be harder to measure, such as kindness, respect, responsibility, and cooperation. How can we measure these? For some, like responsibility, we can track late or missing work—this is the outcome of not being responsible. For some of the other skills, using classroom survey data can help everyone to know whether or not they are making progress and help individuals compare themselves to how the class is doing. Now for setting class goals...
How does it look for a class?
Every class should be a team that works hard together and cooperates well. Classes can set goals together to work as a team. Much like a basketball team would have their eye on winning a state title, the classroom can have their eye on winning together in the classroom and around the school. The great thing about class goals is that they can be very public. An entire bulletin board can be dedicated to watching the class grow from week to week in whichever skill is targeted. This helps to reinforce the individual goals that students set. If a student is unfamiliar with goal setting and how to make progress, working as a team should help them understand the discipline and work it takes to achieve something.
How does it look for teachers?
For my teachers, I always break down their start of the year goals into four areas: students, instruction, curriculum, and environment or culture. Each of these is a pretty specific area of the classroom that teachers should consider improving in. Hopefully they improve in all of them, but sometimes teachers will target a certain area depending on what is going on in the district. Just like with students, teachers must have goals that are measureable and can be defined and tracked. They should write them down and look at them throughout the year, watching the signposts to keep on the right track.
It is an exciting time at the start of the year, so harness that excitement to focus the students and the classroom on what you all want to become by the end of the year. And if you liked this post, be sure to subscribe to our Mimio Educator blog to stay informed and inspired all year long. Subscribe today!>>