The Year of Resolution

Did you make any new year’s resolutions for 2014?  If so, have you managed to keep them for the last day and a half?  Some years I make resolutions and others I don’t, but I rarely actually have a plan for keeping them.  I did make a few this year, but I included this very important one at the end of my short list: “Keep working on these goals even if you fall off the proverbial wagon.”  Chances are I’m not going to be able to keep my resolutions 100% of the time for the next 365 days, but if I can keep that last one, and if I can keep going back to my goals even when I misstep, I figure I’ll be in good shape come December 31, 2014.

In making my own resolutions, however, I started to think about goal-setting in general, particularly as it relates to education and my students.  How explicitly do we teach students how to set, measure, and keep goals?  I know that I throw out great words of wisdom like, “Study a little bit each night,” or, “Make a schedule and then stick to it.”  In general, this is about all my students get from me about the importance of having goals.  Pretty pathetic actually.  I imagine most students, like most adults, don’t know exactly how to set a reasonable, worthwhile goal or how to follow through on achieving that goal once it’s been set.  How many teachers actually explicitly teach goal-setting using tools like the acronym S.M.A.R.T.?  Do you even know what S.M.A.R.T. stands for?*

I started thinking that I’d like to try something new this semester with my students.  I thought I’d truly and explicitly teach them a little about setting realistic, worthwhile goals and measuring how well one is meeting those goals over time.  These will be individual goals rather than class goals, and I see myself serving as a sounding board and cheerleader for my students as they try to achieve their goals, checking in on their progress regularly throughout the term.  As I was thinking about how I would go about doing this, I realized that most of my students would likely set one of two goals if given no advice on this process.  One group would say, “I want to make an A.”  Another group  would say, “I want to not fail.”  Both goals are purely related to grades.  I am still at the drawing board thinking about how best to get my students to set educational goals that are not so much about a number on a transcript, or at least not solely about a number on a transcript.  This is proving a little challenging right now.  My hope is that when I start talking about this with my students they will have some good ideas of their own, and I imagine they will.

So what about you?  What are your goals for the coming semester?  Have you set any?  Are they S.M.A.R.T.?  If we don’t have goals and plans, how can we expect our students to have them?

Answer: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely

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