Monday, April 29, 2013

We teach our kids to share, so why not teach them to share GOALS?

Most people understand the importance of goal setting in life...MOST people.  Is it possible to get through life without setting goals?  Sure.  Will you end up where you could have ended up?  Probably not. 
Goals help people to see where they are supposed to end up, if they have direction and know where they are going, they are more likely to get there.  There is the overused cliché of driving somewhere with no destination, but it's the best comparison, so I will use it.  How do you expect someone to get somewhere if you don't tell them where they are going? And, even if you do tell them where they are going, how likely are they to get there without specific directions?
Bottom line is, we can't take these risks in the classroom.  It is not possible for our students to get to where they need to and to be able to reach their full potential, without setting goals.  Nowhere is goal setting more important than in school with our students...but how do we communicate that to them at such a young age? How do we get them involved?  How do we get them excited, motivated?
As teachers, we not only have the responsibility of teaching content and making sure our students can read and write, multiply and divide, but we must also lead them in the art of goal setting and give them all the tools they need in order to reach those goals.  They may have never been exposed to goal setting before, so as teachers, we need to get to work!  Hopefully by the time they leave us, they will be more natural goal setters and will be able to generalize their goal setting abilities to other areas of their lives besides school.
I have many goals as  a teacher, and one is to make goal setting a daily, natural part of my classroom so students know at all times, where they are going, where they ARE compared to where they are going, and how they will get to where they are going.
Addressing motivation:  This year we used ice cream parties for awarding the classes with the most readers on grade level and the most improved class.  Was that motivating for the kids as they worked towards their goals?  Maybe... Did they have fun?  Heck yeah!  But I am looking for a daily, instant source of motivation that will help my students recognize the intrinsic feelings that go along with goal setting, whether reaching or falling short of a goal.  I want them to be involved in their goal setting and knowledgeable about their progress.  I want them to WANT to reach their goals, for themselves, and not just an ice cream party...
So, I did a previous post about our reading buddies time and how much my students look forward to it.  When I heard that we were going to use our reading buddies time to share goals, I didn't really think anything of it.  What are second graders going to understand about a fifth grader sharing his or her goals, I thought to myself...and the fifth graders probably won't even listen to the second graders! 
That was my thinking, until.... I saw the magic happen!  THIS IS WHY I LOVE MY JOB...  Student engagement, students taking responsibility, and I was so proud of my fifth graders!  They were honestly interested in the little guys' goals!  I loved when I heard one of my kids ask his buddy "Now what are your goals?"  I had a girl that had two second grade girls with their eyes locked on her the whole time she was reading about her goals... I could feel how important she felt at that moment.  What could be more motivating for a fifth grader?! 
Goal sharing worked for both parties; the second graders looked so proud and felt important to be sharing goals with fifth graders...especially to have the fifth graders give them that undivided attention that they did.  I think my 5th graders obviously felt important as well; those that met their goals felt proud to share that with someone else, especially someone who looks up to them.  On the other hand, some of them had to verbalize and hear themselves say out loud that they did not reach their goals, and then had to commit to what they will do next time in order to reach them.  I hope this helps those students in the future. 
I think students should be encouraged to share their goals with everyone, just like we encourage them from a young age to share their toys, snacks, etc...  I feel like the more people that know about it (mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, brother, sister, peers, teachers), the more responsibility they will take and in turn, the harder they will work.  As a result, they will feel things when they reach those goals (or don't reach those goals)...and hopefully they will do it for themselves, and not just an ice cream party... 
I don't even know if I can put this experience into any more words, just look at my pictures below.  I tried to capture it as best as I could...

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