Once the school year is underway, it is easy to fall into routines, get sucked into PLCs, providing feedback on student work, daily lesson planning, and more. We can easily lose sight of our purpose and intentions. Before the students arrive and meetings start to pile up, take a quiet moment to think deeply about yourself as a teacher and what goals you want to accomplish.
You might remember that at the end of the school year, I urged you to write yourself a note, reflecting on the previous year. As we begin to prepare ourselves for a new batch of students, it’s time to dust off the envelope and read your own advice.
In my letter, I wrote about how great it was to have students standing up the boards working. They were lively, energetic, and more likely to collaborate. My purpose in the classroom is to empower students to create learning opportunities for themselves. Encouraging the students to work on the board was one strategy that aligned well with that intention.
One goal that I have for the upcoming school year is to get the students up and out of their seats at least twice a week. Last year, working at the whiteboards gave my students confidence, enhanced collaboration and community, and allowed me to give immediate feedback, deepening the learning experience. I hope to continue this trend by being more intentional about providing these opportunities.
What did you write to yourself in your letter? Have you set a goal yet? What impact will it have on your students? In the rest of this post, we’ll talk through some goal setting strategies to help you prepare to be the best version of yourself this upcoming school year.
When I was in college, I “set a goal” to learn the harmonica. I had never had a passion for creating music, didn’t know anything about playing an instrument, didn’t even own a harmonica. This was just a random desire stemming from a notion that it might make me stand out. Needless to say, I never learned how to play. The point is: a goal doesn’t stick if we don’t have a good reason for setting it.
In an educational setting, imagine that your school administration has recently declared that you will now be a “PBL school” so you set a goal of “planning a project for every unit of study.” Project Based Learning is amazing and fantastic but if you don’t really know what it is, don’t know how to plan one, and haven’t bought into the idea that it will help your students, your goal is going to fall flat.
Instead, a goal should stem from who you want to be as a teacher. Ask yourself:
- Why am I in the classroom?
- What kind of experience do I want to create for my students?
- How do I want my students to change as a result of their time with me?
- What is one area of growth I want to work on, as per feedback I have received in the past?
The answers to these questions will help you choose a goal that gets you closer to being your ideal version of yourself as a teacher.
Facets of Teaching
As you know, there are many different facets of teaching and each one could be an area that you want to focus on this year. Teachers:
- Affect student learning
- Affect student self-efficacy
- Affect student development
- Create safe and supportive classroom communities
- Participate in their own communities
- Communicate with parents
- Communicate with colleagues
- Are learners themselves
If you are focused on student learning you might set a goal related to learning a new teaching strategy like XXX. If you want to focus on the classroom community, your goal might be around ways that you can build relationships with students and help them build relationships with each other, for example.
Writing a Goal
Many people are aware of the “SMART” acronym for writing goals.
This is certainly a useful framework and I encourage you to use it when writing your goals. Here is an example of a goal that isn’t “SMART”.
“I want to make my Algebra 2 class better.”
This goal lacks specificity because it leaves me wondering: which aspects of the class? Assessments? Lesson planning? Engagement? Student performance? It is also difficult to measure. What does this teacher mean by “better”?
An example of a “SMART” goal is:
“To collaborate on a project across disciplines with another teacher by the end of the second trimester. Possibly a week-long project that incorporates a humanities, science, social science, or art discipline. The idea is to show students that math is everywhere.”
This teacher is very specific about wanting to complete an interdisciplinary project between math and another discipline. He wants the project to be a week-long experience and for it to be completed by the end of the second trimester, making it both time bound and attainable. The purpose of the project is for students to see the relevance of math.
Process and Outcome Goals
Another useful framework for thinking about goals is the difference between “process” and “outcome.”
Outcome goals focus on an end result like, “More than 70% of my students will pass the state ELA exam.” These goals, while specific, tend to be difficult to prepare for, given that there are so many factors that are out of a teacher’s control. You’ll notice that they give little direction about what a teacher might do to reach the goal.
Process goals address the action items that might be taken to attain a certain outcome, without focusing on that outcome. A process goal reads more like, “My students will engage in at least one close reading exercise a week.” Implementation of process goals much clearer and progress can be measured regularly instead of just once at the end.
It’s valuable to have both types of goals. You might have one overarching outcome goal and then several process goals as action steps to help you get there. Template.
Tracking a Goal
It is important to keep track of your progress as you go to ensure you are making steady steps forward. If your goal is truly measurable, it should be easy to determine what evidence you’ll need to collect and reflect on in order to see how you’re doing.
For example, if one of your goals is for students to engage in close reading once per week, you might have a simple spreadsheet like the one below where you record the date, the activity, and notes about students’ proficiency.
|Close Reading Activity
|Notes on Students’ Proficiency
In addition to keeping track of your progress for yourself, it can be helpful to make your goal public. Share it with a critical friend, instructional coach, or accountability buddy. Sharing our goals with others makes them more real and helps us stay accountable for working towards them.
I encourage you to take some time before summer ends to write a few goals for the year. Hit the ground running. We’d love to hear what you’re working on this year. Please comment on this post or share on social media. Make sure to tag us @Masteryforall on Twitter or on LinkedIn at Mastery Portfolio or on our Facebook Group.