In last week’s post, Reflect, Re-evaluate, Resolve, I wrote about my personal New Year’s resolutions. In my classroom, I taught what it means to make a resolution and then we reviewed what it means to write a SMART goal. Every day, every student in my class is required to write a personal goal.
For years, I have taught students that “successful people make goals and work to achieve them.” While it sounds good, I never felt like they really “got” the concept. Their goals were simply written and too broad. They wrote things such as: “Be good,” “Be nice,” “Do my work,” “Don’t get mad.” On the surface, these seem like good goals for 11-18 year olds to write. You even might find yourself asking what is wrong with them and thinking that I am expecting too much from my students. However, upon closer review, these goals are far too broad and leave too much to interpretation. For example, every day for the past two years, Ginger wrote, “Get to the highest level.” I couldn’t convince her to change her goal and all my explanations and examples about how she needed to be more specific did nothing but make her frustrated. In those two years, she made many improvements, but she had never been promoted above the third level in my 5-Tiered Level System. She even wrote this goal on the last day of the school year, when she was on the lowest level and it would have been impossible for her to achieve it. That’s when I realized I had to do something differently. I realized that I need to spend more time teaching students HOW to write a well-defined, achievable goal. Otherwise, it was more like a task on a To Do list, or a wish, but not a real goal.
With all the goals I write for the legal paperwork my job requires, and the goals I write for my personal life, I know how to write a well-defined, achievable goal, but I needed more information about how I could better TEACH my students the process. I read up on goal writing and re-discovered the terrific mnemonic, SMART. The first known uses of the term SMART occur in the November 1981 issue of Management Review by George T. Doran. Doran teaches that each goal needs to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-sensitive. While I learned about SMART years ago, I had become complacent and I needed a reminder.
I spent several days at the beginning of this school year teaching this method step-by-step. I even had the class for the specifically learning disabled come in and learn the method. I am so pleased at how much better the students’ goals have become; how much more focused each student is with his or her personal goal. Also, I have changed the phrase that I teach to my students. Now we say, “Successful people make SMART goals and work hard to achieve them.”
Ginger started to grasp the lesson and wrote this goal instead, “I will follow the rules of the classroom every period today.” This goal follows the SMART method and she soared up the level system. She was the first student in my class to attain the highest level and she is still there. She is currently on her 53rd day. This is a pretty amazing feat for someone who spent two years on the two lowest levels.
As stated before, this past week we have been revisiting how to write a SMART goal and applying it to our resolutions. The students have been thinking hard and the results have been impressive.
How do you teach goal writing to your students and children? Have you even considered it a lesson they could benefit from learning?
Come back next week and read about one of my students living without water in his home for three and a half months.
Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and have a peace-filled week,
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