- Bringing Project Based Learning to our Classroom - August 12, 2018
- Keep the Engagement Alive: Start the Year with Purpose - August 5, 2018
- It's Our Fault: A Teacher's Confession - March 18, 2018
- Keeping Your Teaching Real: A Teacher's Role - March 11, 2018
- Sketch Notes in the Elementary Classroom - February 15, 2017
- Teach From the Heart - February 9, 2017
- Who is the Teacher: School or Family? - January 11, 2017
- Dear President Elect Trump, From Your Teachers - November 17, 2016
- Let them Be Children - October 21, 2016
- Print Resources: Great Tools for Kids - October 17, 2016
My dad is a runner. He ran back in the 60’s, barefoot, and broke records in cross-country and track. He still talks about it with love and pride. I am not a runner, but age is an amazing motivator and as I hit 40 last year I realized I needed to put a little more effort into staying in shape. So I started running. It was not very pretty; and there was not much focused effort. I did not have a specific goal. It was sporadic and sometimes I ran, often I didn’t. I soon realized I needed to set a goal if I was going to be successful.
This summer, almost a year later, I found some apps that will track my time and my run. I have a group of supportive running buddies. I have set a new goal. Last year at this time if you would have told me I would run a 10K I would have laughed in your face. Today, that is my new, very realistic goal.
With the release of “Back to School Ads” the reality of gearing up for another school year is upon us. Starting each year, whether it is your first, twentieth or somewhere in-between, you should begin with setting goals. In my first year of running my goal was to go to fun and silly 5K races. The first few were just that, fun and silly. But then I began to see a bigger picture. I had control over my running and my times. I set a goal and things began to fall into place. In April I was in the top 10 for my age group. The same applies to your classroom.
I remember getting my first teaching job and setting up my classroom. I remember the excitement of having my own room and the freedom to express my creativity. Each year I feel that excitement with a new class, it is important, however, to set short-term and long-term goals for the school year to focus that energy. So where do you start?
S.M.A.R.T goals is a new buzz word in education. Some schools now require teams and teachers to set these goals. While we see many fads move in and out of education, goals is an important part of teaching. Setting goals is important in anything you want to have success with, but you need to set the goals for yourself. Focus on who you are as a professional, where your strengths and weaknesses are and what you want to gain with your students this school year. Whether you set S.M.A.R.T. goals with your team or set your goals for yourself, I have found these steps bring meaning to my goal setting and translate into meaning in my teaching.
The first important focus is your inner teacher. I went to a gathering many, many years ago where we sat, drank wine, and talked. The conversation moved to what motivates people. I found everything that motivates me lead back to my family. They are the center. They are MY center. This was an eye-opening thought as I began to see how this is where my decisions are made from. The same holds true for our classroom. Your inner teacher is the basis for your decision-making. For more information about finding your inner teacher check out this article. To get you started, think about these three questions:
- What do you want to know first about your class each year?
- What do you want your students learn this year?
- What do you want them to remember when they are gone?
These answers will lead you to what motivates you. Before you set your classroom goals it is important to examine your inner teacher and think about your teaching philosophy. For some thinking points on teaching philosophies you can check out this website. Your philosophy should be the driving force in the decisions you make and how you set up and lead your class. No, you cannot throw standards and testing and administration requests to the wayside, but when you make decisions that align with your philosophy you will find a balance in your world.
Next, think about the goals you have for yourself as a teacher and your classroom. What would you like to have accomplished by parent teacher conferences? What would you like to have accomplished in the first semester? What would you like to have accomplished by the end of the year? These goals should be attainable and realistic. Do not overwhelm yourself with numerous goals. I often set one goal in a curriculum area, one goal in technology, and one goal in professional growth. Your goals should match what you are doing for your professional development or your building and school wide goals. Whatever they are, write these goals down or put them in your smart phone. They are important and deserve to be recorded.
It is important to have the right tools to reach your goals. This summer I found two apps to help with my running. One takes my goal of running a 10K and breaks it into manageable runs over a period of eight weeks. The second tracks that progress. Last year when I was running I used an app that broke my running into manageable runs to work towards a 5K goal, but I did not track my progress. For your classroom goals it is important to have all of the tools you need to be successful. Get books from the library or other teachers, search the internet, use resources from The Educator’s Room, find an educational group, having the tools you need will make your goals possible.
It is important to have a support system when working towards your goals. In my running buddies group I have someone I can run with that pushes me, I have someone I can run with and laugh and laugh (we run a lot slower), I have someone who asks if I have run today or if I want to go running. Without support, our goals can easily feel impossible. Find someone in the building, in your social network, or a personal friend or family member that understands your goals. Set up a positive network that will help you gather resources, share ideas, and reach your goals. Talk about your goals with this support group. Having a strong support system will make a huge impact on reaching your goals.
Each August brings the rush of setting up a classroom, learning a new set of students, keeping up with the changes in education, and starting another positive learning community. The first step on this path is to find your inner teacher and set your personal goals. So, who are you as a teacher? What motivates you and what is important? What goals do you want to accomplish this year? What do you need to reach these goals? Who will help support you? Check up on your goals throughout the year. How are you doing? What is helping you? What is stopping you? If you reach your goal, set another one. Align your goals to your personal teaching philosophy and you will feel confident in what you are doing.