"Tis the season of writing professional goals. At least it is for me. This is the time of year that forces me to think about what I'd like to accomplish this year. Some people love to set goals, even if it's only a list of things "to do" that day. There's a thrill of ticking off items from the paper, a feeling of deep accomplishment knowing you accomplished something that day. But are goals for everyone?
Not all are enamored with the idea of such structure that goals bring. Not wanting to be confined, these people resist the limitations they may feel targets bring. What if your life takes a twist and you are no longer interested in hitting these marks? Teachers are no different. Some thrive with having a measurable means of gauging "success" by achieving the goal while others don't want to be committed to going in a certain direction.
What works best? It comes down to knowing yourself. Me? I'm definitely one who likes the structure that goals afford me. I may change the marks, but I need something to shoot for during the year. I have a colleague, though, who works through the year day-by-day, without really a set agenda just waiting to see where his classes go. This works for him.
I don't always write down my goals, yet I'm fully aware of what they are. These are what drive me in my quest to be effective in the classroom. Something I'm aiming for this year is consistency--being faithful to teach a couple of things daily.
Although I like setting goals, I don't always accomplish them. My biggest problem was shooting too high and expecting too much...from me. I've lessened the burden on myself and given myself some slack in this process. Just as expecting too much from my kids makes them frustrated, shut down, and lose confidence in their abilities, the same thing can happen to me. If we shoot too high, we almost make it impossible for ourselves to achieve the goals we set. I would nearly wear myself out attempting to achieve what in reality was unrealistic.
Here are some things I've learned about goals:
1) Be realistic. Nothing destroys a student like setting the bar too high and the same goes for ourselves. Ask yourself if you would expect a colleague to be able to meet this goal. Or ask for input from those around you. Colleagues should know you well as a professional and can offer good advice as to the reality of that goal.
2) Be flexible. Things change. Students have lives, too, and sometimes those lives impede learning. Maybe you won't be able to put another notch on your ruler or tick off the completed goal. Maybe instead of meeting the mark, you put the kids first and adjust your aim a bit lower. It's not the end of the world. Learning can and does still happen, just maybe not at the rate you were shooting for.
3) Be positive. No one likes a grump. Not meeting goals really affects some people, causing them to be difficult to be around. Instead of moping about the lack of progress in meeting your mark or getting upset about it, relax. It's not that important. Continue to work toward your goal, seeing the big picture instead of focusing on a microcosm of it. Life will still go on.
4) Be consistent. I think of the tortoise and the hare. Be tortoise-like in your approach, slow and methodical, yet steady.Working toward a goal needn't be sporadic. Diligently striving to achieve a larger goal shouldn't be all-consuming but neither should you have fits and starts in regards to it. Too often I "zoom" in my start only to lag shortly after. Taking small steps consistently helps me to relieve some of the pressure on myself. I'd rather see steady progress than the fitful starts and stops.
Setting goals may be an effective way for you to operate in your classroom. It is for me. But not everyone is the same. Lighten up on your expectations of yourself and others. It could make all the difference.