At the beginning of the school year, there is a contagious feeling of optimism. It’s a fresh set of 180+ days ahead of us where anything seems possible. We say, with best intentions, that this year we will become masters at that new curriculum, flawlessly use that new computer program with our students, or become the world’s expert in classroom management. Unfortunately, reality strikes. The pace picks up and too often, our goals get forgotten or pushed to the bottom of the priority list. We end the year with a classic case of “coulda, shoulda, woulda… but next year I’ll do better!”
Here are some reminders when making your goals for this school year:
If a goal is to stand a chance at surviving the first month of school, it has to be meaningful to you. Try to avoid goals that include things like trendy technology or an internet fad on social media. As the world’s energy for the fad wanders, your commitment might as well.
Here are just a few examples of reflection questions for finding a goal that resonates with you:
- What would improve my energy and attitude in the classroom?
- How could I alter my daily routine (before, during, or after the school day) to help maximize my efforts?
- How can I be more clear about my expectations to my students?
- How could I improve clarity in my instruction?
- What would improve engagement levels in the students?
- How can I help my students see real world connections from what we do in class?
- What could I do to help reach different levels of learners? different paces? different personalities?
- How could I increase efficiency without decreasing quality?
- What matters most to me for my practice?
- What do I think matters most to my students: in general? and in my content area?
- What are really the really important “must knows” in my curriculum?
- What are some softer skills or bigger picture lessons that my students need exposure to?
- What do I want students to say at the end of a class period?
- What do I hope my students take away from class at the end of the year?
- How can I better connect with students? my colleagues? parents? the community?
While it may be easy to create a long list of goals at the beginning of the year, it’s important to narrow the list down to just a couple. Consider trying to write your goals in the SMART format (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and timely). Incorporating these elements into your goals will help to focus your actions accordingly and also help you to check in on your progress throughout the year.
Write down your goals and find a spot where you will see them often! (Out of sight, out of mind!) For larger goals, it may be helpful to list out the resources and mini-steps that need to happen in order for you to accomplish this goal. For long term goals, it may be helpful to identify benchmarks along the way so you can evaluate your progress.
Reflect on your personality and how you get things done. Are you the type of person who needs to enlist a colleague to regularly check in on your progress or will setting up personal reminders throughout the year be enough? Decide on an accountability system with yourself, a colleague, or a small group and regularly make sure you’re moving in the desired direction. Identify these people (as needed) early and enlist their commitment. Depending on the time frame of your goal, decide on an appropriate meeting schedule. Take some time at the beginning of the school year to schedule accountability meetings (either for your in your own calendar or as a meeting with others) for the duration of the year to ensure this will not get pushed to the bottom of your priorities. It may be helpful to schedule meetings more regularly at the beginning of the school year to help establish a routine and build momentum. Then, it may be possible to space out meetings as the year goes on.
Here are some questions to consider to hold yourself accountable: What has been working? What needs to be done differently? Is this goal something that is still important? How far have you come in accomplishing this goal? What needs to happen in order for you accomplish it by the designated time frame?
Keep reminders in your lesson plans, your calendar, or near your desk of your big goals and your next actionable steps. If it is a goal that requires some upfront time on your part (perhaps you’re trying a new curriculum or a new course), remember – what gets scheduled gets done! Block off time in your day and identify a specific next step to complete during that time. Make sure the time you set aside for your goals and professional development remains a priority throughout the year. It’s easy to think that other things are more urgent or more important, but if this is truly a goal that you feel is worthy and relevant for you and your students, then it should definitely remain a high priority.