As the Olymipics are wrapping up, it has been a great time to reflect on the process of achieving dreams. We all want our students to “dream big,” but at the same time, are we equipping them with the skills they need to manage the process, overcome setbacks, and reward themselves when they reach their goals? This is yet another opportunity for educators to focus on process over product as our students will venture far and wide, but their ability to manage their goals is a universal skill. Continue to read as I discuss how we, as educators, can provide opportunities and support for students as they pursue their passions and dreams! This first post centers on how we help students establish strong goals!
Setting and Managing GOALS...
Most schools have a structure in place to have students set goals, but in most circumstances there is no additional support after the goals are set. Students are left on their own to manage the successes and failures, often leading to unachieved or unrealistic goals, and no support throughout the journey as they are the only investors in the challenge. Schools and teachers need to be modeling the process, not only so that students and emulate the steps, but also so teachers can gain empathy for students as they engage in each step along the way. Where we need to start is with creating goals that set students up for success. Goals that are too vague or unattainable do not leave the students feeling capable and empowered. Before our first step, we must consider the direction we want to go and be specific about how and when we want to get there.
Step #1: Setting Strong Goals
We all want to achieve our goals, but our success could be thwarted from the very first step. Unrealistic or unmeasurable goals prevent effective feedback of progress. The ability to effectively reflect and feel success is based on meeting specific steps along the way. Imagine trying to climb a staircase when you didn’t know where the steps were! This is akin to dreams without specific stages and opportunities for finding success. We need to help students construct goals using (or similar to) a SMART structure. This holds the strongest potential for setting them up for success.
Smart Goals are those that are:
Specific - Focuses on one particular task for challenge
Measurable - Uses numbers, values, or percentages as a metric for success
Attainable - Within the goal setters current or near future capabilities
Relevant - Associated with other goals or general aspirations
Time-Based - Done within a set time limit or has a deadline.
Example: Increase new user traffic to my blog by 50% within the next three months.
This goal contains each of the elements of a SMART goal and truly help define the parameters for success.
Step #2: Managing Goals
Now that you have a goal in mind, creating a system or structure to help you achieve that goal is a necessary addition. Especially if your goal requires the acquisition of new skills before the goal can be attained, having a protocol for working toward your goal will set you up for success. I have recently purchased the Best Self Journal as a means to help me coordinate an effort to achieve my goals. The Best Self system uses a robust journal to help with positive thinking, goal setting, task management, and reflection. In the same way that breaking student projects down into small tasks helps students focus, this consistent structure keeps me accountable for my actions each day in how they affect my ability to work toward my goal.
The systems that are most effective for goals are really based on the goal that is set. However, the one aspect that I have found most helpful and rewarding is the expectation of working a little bit each day. Having sub-goals such as, writing for 30 minutes every day, posting one blog per week, and participating in 2-3 twitter chats per week; help me toward my goal of spreading my message and driving visits to my site.
When we think about this for students, we need to consider their goals and some tasks and mini-goals that will keep them motivated to succeed. If a student wants to improve their grade; make sure they set a goal percentage and a timeline for getting there. This creates an opportunity for minigoals that could be focused on a specified amount of nightly review, weekly meetings with teachers, and score objectives for larger assessments. Tracking the progress or having a checklist of completed activities helps students see the value in their efforts and validates the hard work they put in will ultimately lead to results.
Up next in this series... Developing Grit!
In the next post in this series, I will talk about managing challenges and developing grit. It is often said that something worth doing is often not easy, and if we made our goals correctly, this will certainly be the case. Look for the next post that discusses how we support students in their challenging quests to achieve their goals!