Goal Setting for Everyone

Our classroom goal setting wall

Goal setting is an important part of the learning process. It is important for our students and for us for professional growth. I wanted to include more goal setting for students this year, and also set some goals for myself.

Goal Setting for Students

I’ve been spending some time at the beginning of this year getting to know my students, both as people and as learners. One of the first things we did as a class was to watch this video on growth mindset from Khan Academy.  Then, we discussed goal setting and I handed out these great sheets designed by 3AM Teacher, and we proceeded to set goals. I love these sheets and they’re well worth the price tag on TPT; however, I would recommend not using the sheet that explains what SMART goals are, especially if you teach middle school. The tagline for Relevant is “Hello, Lover”, which caused a seemingly endless fit of giggles from my 6th graders, and some “ew, that’s gross” comments from my 7th graders. The rest of the handouts, however, are wonderful for guiding students through the goal setting process.

It seemed that for many of my students, this was the first time they were encountering SMART goals, so it was challenging. Although we talked through the process and I modeled how to set a goal that was specific, measurable, achievable, and relevant, we started out with things like “To get better at writing.” Several probing questions later we got closer to a SMART goal: “I want to write longer paragraphs with fewer spelling mistakes”. Sometimes the goals aligned with what their teachers the previous year had set as goals for them, and sometimes their goals were different. What’s important is that they know what they’re working toward (and have a purpose for it), and I know what is important to them, and can begin to incorporate it into my instruction.

Overall, the first effort was successful, but I think the next time I work with them on goal setting this year it will be even better. We’ll be able to really evaluate if our goals were specific enough and measurable enough for us to be able to evaluate our progress, giving them a clearer idea of SMART goals look like, and, I’m hoping, helping to motivate them. They did have some difficulty identifying steps to help them achieve their goals. I think that was partially my modeling wasn’t great, and partially that they’re still not sure what that means. I’m hoping some reflection will help us to create better plans, but I also realize that as an adult sometimes it takes me a lot of time to formulate a plan, so maybe they just need more time.

Goal Setting for the Teacher

I just had my beginning of the year meeting with my principal. As a “probationary teacher” (meaning not yet tenured, not “on probation” as if I did something bad…), I have a meeting at the beginning of the year, and then she observes me twice and we have follow-up meetings on those observations. This year I set goals for myself in three areas: instruction and management, coaching, and self-care. I’m going to follow the same format I asked the kids to (but without the fancy paper). I’m going to share my instruction and management goals here. The others will come another time.

1. Improve my behavior management for my more challenging group. 

I have one group (who I adore), but they are very challenging in terms of their behavior. There are a lot of reasons for this. Some of it is group dynamic, some of it is the combinations of individual learning differences. Some of it is what we as educators know to be true about kids who are in programs like the ACS/Learning Support program at my school–after a while students make the decision that it’s better to be bad than to be dumb, and they act accordingly. Some of it is that more intimate environment that we work in allows a certain level of comfort for them which has enormous benefits, but also students sometimes feel that the Learning Lab is a place where they can “let it all hang out”, and they let all the pent up energy out. But some of it is within my control. I want to be more systematic about the approaches I try this year, and really keep track of what’s working and what isn’t. Even though I know that it takes several weeks before one can see if a behavioral intervention is working, sometimes I jump the gun.

My plan: Create a way to reflect in writing, even briefly and bullet pointed, on what happened during each lesson with these students, how I intervened, and what structures and supports worked. I’ve had a colleague suggest ClassDojo, which might be helpful for tracking data, but I’m not sure how effective it will be as a system.

Who can help: I have several colleagues who can help me with this. This is one area though, where observation won’t be effective–adding another person to the mix completely changes the dynamic in small group teaching. Maybe videos?

2. Better integrate the technology I have available to me into my lessons, including finding more ways to leverage “regular” technology as assistive technology for my students.

I am extremely luck to have a number of tech resources, both in terms of hardware and devices (1:1 laptops/MacBooks, my personal iPad, student smartphones, student e-readers, interactive whiteboard) and in terms of software/apps: Schoology, Google Apps, and a variety of tools provided by the school for use by both students and teachers. With so much available, it’s easy to get bogged down in all of that technology and end up just using it, and not necessarily purposefully, rather than integrating it into instruction, so I decided to focus on just a two things:

  • Creating digital portfolios to track progress toward student learning goals using my iPad, the student laptops, and a TBD app. I’ve been reading and rereading Matt Renwick‘s awesome book, Digital Student Portfoliosin order to get some ideas. Being able to curate evidence of student progress toward their IILP (International Individual Learning Plan) goals will really help with decision making for placement, and help foster conversations with parents. It will also make students think about I think Schoology might be the way to go, but I’m not sure how well it will work–it’s designed to be a learning management system, not a portfolio. I might be better off making individual Google Sites for each student.
  • Using Schoology to help provide support materials for students. Basically, I want to flip the front loading of content and supplemental curriculum support that used to be the main activity in Learning Lab so I can focus on skill building work.

I don’t have a plan for how to implement this yet. I’m still working on it. But I do know that I have a few educational technology specialists at my school who can help.

I’m excited to pursue these goals this year and share what I learn along the way.

Do you teach goal setting to your students? Do you set professional goals for yourself? How do you track your progress?

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