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Goal-setting habits that lead to change

September 2, 2015

Remember June? Oh, it seems so long ago. You were comfortable enough with your students that you could let jokes (and maybe even a hint of sarcasm) sneak into your room. It was all about final units, final exams, end-of-the-year celebrations, etc. When June rolled to a close maybe you were focused intently on your summer travel plans, or packing up your room. Maybe you were thinking about ideas for September. Maybe you were thinking about the things you wanted to do differently next year, the lessons you learned, the ways you could improve this writing assignment, or that research project.

Well, it’s almost September again. Now it is time to make those plans a reality.

One of the things I appreciate about the community of teachers is the different ways that people enact their dreams and aspirations for their classrooms. I know plenty of colleagues that spend all summer in PD sessions, working on materials, racking up grad credits,  developing of rubrics and assignments, etc. I know other people who seem to absorb their learning and make magic happen without overt planning (although I think that planning does happen in a simply more hidden way).  Although I’m less inclined to fill up my summer with PD, I do have some concrete habits that help me frame my goals for the upcoming school year.

Over the years I’ve developed some goal-setting habits that have led to positive results in the classroom. As I’m working on getting ready for this year’s students I see how my systems are paying off in the form of better online discussions, more interesting projects and better student conferences. I’m also realizing that these results come from a mix of concrete systems and written reflections, as well as some more loose “pondering” and “browsing” time that I build in for myself. I used to think hope that teaching was mostly a science, because I could learn how to do a “science” even if I lacked talent. The older and more experienced I get, the more I know that teaching is truly an art and a science, but even a “non-artist” like me can get better with deliberate practice over time.

So, what is my deliberate practice?

At the end of June I . . .

  • Reflect on the school year by skimming weekly reflections, referring to notes I’ve taken through the year, and writing down my general feelings and thoughts about the year.
  • Review my list of “things I want to try” that I’ve accumulated through the year and pick ONLY 2-3 to focus on for the next school year.
  • Make a list of actionable steps to set me up to try these things
  • Set my goals for the next school year (some directly related to my action steps, some just to remind me of things to focus on)

In the middle of August I . . .

  • Here is my Goal Sheet. It's just marker on paper, but it leads to powerful change

    Here is my Goal Sheet. It’s just marker on paper, but it leads to powerful change

    Revisit the notes I made in June, marvel at the wisdom of my June-self (since my August-self is a sun-induced, wine-guzzling, beach-loving fiend who can’t figure out what she is going to have for lunch).

  • Start carrying out my action steps
  • Write my goals for the year on a piece of white paper to put in the front of my planning folder.
  • See my goals every day that I open my folder. Some days this means I ponder them, changes my plans because of them, or adjust my focus because of them. Some days I just feel like an incompetent nincompoop and can’t bear to even look at them because I know I’m not living up to them

And yet . . .

Somewhere in this mess of action plans, lofty goals, and a white piece of paper that focuses my choices, things start to come together.82648702_800bccf11e_z

  • I’ve build a far more robust independent reading program than I had four years ago
  • Students have started truly revising, not just clicking “accept” on spell-check
  • I’m spending more time conferencing, and less time “delivering” instruction

That is my growth from the past. This year my goals are:

  • Use my checklist (a conferencing and planning tool I made that I forgot to use last year)
  • Use conference notes to more directly inform instruction
  • Use more small group discussion and whole class discussion
These goals will keep me focused on how I want to grow as a teacher, and how I want my students to grow as readers, writers, and thinkers.

What are your goals for this school year? How will you make your classroom aspirations come true?

  1. Hi! Thanks for sharing your goal setting process. Similar to you, each year I become more aware of how much “art” is involved in teaching and how more “science” is available to help me. I am big on setting goals for myself every year too. I am not good at sticking to 2-3 though. Perhaps, that itself should be a goal?
    Anyway, my goals this year include authentic writing workshop (not just required pieces), consistent conferencing, timely feedback on drafts, simpler rubrics, and practicing metacognitive descriptions about their writing process with the use of process papers.

  2. That sounds like an excellent list of goals! I would love to see examples of process papers – that sounds super intriguing! If you are ever interested in sharing some of your own learning and/or student work on this blog, let me know!

    I have to say, as someone who wants to do everything, paring things down to their most essential is a constant goal, and a constant work-in-progress for me. I know less is better, but it is super hard to cull!

    Also, have you read “Write Beside Them” by Penny Kittle? It changed my life, and really helped me rethink writers’ workshop!

    Thanks for the comment!!

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