As you recall from last week’s post (Swearing vs. Music), Ginger started to exhibit a remarkable change in her use of appropriate language instead of inappropriate language. However, at the end of her second year with me, she still was not able to get past the two lowest levels on the No Bull 5-Tiered Level System. In this system, each student is required to write a daily personal goal. Every day for a year and a half, Ginger wrote, “To get to Director-in-Charge,” which on the surface sounds like a fine goal for an eighth grader to write; however, she never accomplished this goal, so something was missing.
I was raised in a religion that was keen on goal writing, my job requires that I write them, and I write goals all the time in my personal life. But I knew I had failed Ginger, when, on the last day of school, she wrote the exact goal she had written all year long-a goal that was impossible for her to achieve that day. I had tried several times throughout the year to get her to understand why she needed to write a different goal and that her goal needed to be more specific; but she wouldn’t budge, and in the end I couldn’t convince her otherwise. I cried that afternoon and wrote a goal for myself that I would spend the summer developing lesson plans to better teach goal writing at the beginning of the next year.
That summer my brother-in-law and I were talking about this issue and he reminded me of the SMART goal writing program (SMART) by George T. Duran. This program first appeared in the November 1981 issue of Management Review. It is an excellent program and clearly defines what I already knew, but had become complacent about over time. I looked up SMART and found a wealth of information. I immediately started to develop my lesson plans. Since 1981, many books have been written on SMART goal writing. John Wade’s 45-page book, SMART Goals – The Secret of Achieving Anything You Want in Life, just came out and is a fantastic little resource for your classroom and your personal life. And, right now, it’s FREE to download to your Kindle.
As September rolled around, I was ready! I spent about two weeks very explicitly and deliberately teaching what SMART stands for and guiding students how to write a SMART goal. Eventually, Ginger started to understand the difference between a SMART goal and a wish or desire. Her wish went from, “Get to Director-in-Charge” to the goal of “I will follow the rules of the classroom in every period today.” It was Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-sensitive. Other times, her goal was, “I will use appropriate language in every class period today.” Again, she followed the SMART program. She soared to the top level (Director-in-Charge) and NEVER looked back.
Now, every day, I teach that “Successful people make SMART goals and work hard to achieve them.” Ginger not only achieved her daily goals, but she was able to start achieving long-term goals as well. At the semester break, she went into a general education eighth grade science class and got to participate in attending some of the dances held after school.
Her inappropriate language became almost non-existent (which was a HUGE improvement considering where it had been two years prior-That’s a Swear Word?) and, in fact, she would report when others were using it. She stopped running everywhere and started to act more calmly. As her social skills improved, her circle of friends increased. She became one of the first kids chosen in PE games. She was able to appropriately tell other people how she felt in certain social situations and teachers started to tell me how much they had noticed her improvements. She earned and stayed on our highest level in the No Bull 5-Tiered Level System all year long. I have had students come close to doing this, but, in all the years I have taught, have NEVER had anyone else achieve it for as long as Ginger did.
At the end of the year, we give out awards to deserving eighth graders and she received the “Most Improved Student” award. When I recited her accomplishments during the presentation, the entire eighth grade broke out into loud cheers. I got choked-up and teary-eyed. The teachers clapped and kept asking each other if this was the same girl who used to run through the halls swearing up a storm.
Ginger has moved onto high school now and misses us, but is doing fine! The No Bull 5-Tiered Level System, a well written Behavior Intervention Plan (Behavior Intervention Plan 2), explicit teaching of goal writing, along with parental support, has made all the difference for this young adult.
Due to her example, this year, I have two students who are trying to get to the highest level and stay there all year.
As teachers, we plan our lessons, make goals, work hard to achieve them, and still, we never completely know the extent of our influences over others. However, when I see success in students like Ginger, I realize why I continue to get up each day and do it all over again. See you next week.
Be kinder than necessary, be grateful, and create a peace-filled week,
P.S. Remember, we will be giving a “No Bull Teacher” polo away every week to a different subscriber during the month of October to celebrate our one year anniversary.