In this series, we’re looking at ways to purposefully set up long term goals using the first weeks of school. I was inspired by the creator of Super Mario Bros, who only planned the first level once the whole game was finished.
“Goal-setting” is a popular way to start the school year, but typically goals are just about school: improve math scores, get better at spelling, etc. Let’s set up a first level to emphasize their goals beyond grades.
This doesn’t have to be a big thing. Take just a few minutes a week, and change your classroom’s culture. You’ll become more aware of your kids’ lives, and they’ll appreciate you validating their interests.
Use yourself as a model to break the ice. For me personally, I am working on:
- running at least 15 miles a week
- learning kanji
- getting into classrooms to watch/practice lessons
Emphasize the need to have a plan for your goal:
- The Nike Running app reminds me to run
- I follow this guide to Kanji
- I’ll be using my southern California friends to let me experiment with their kids (In the area? Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Ask students to think for a moment: What’s a goal you’re working on outside of class?
- Ask them to share with someone around them
- Ask if anyone would like to share an interesting goal they heard from someone
Capture it! Jot down what your kids are up to so you can remember to check-in. Make it easy by asking them write down, then hand you their non-academic goal as they walk out the door.
Note: You may need to reassure your class that this isn’t going to turn into homework, a report, or any other school-ish thing. They’ll probably (unfortunately) be suspicious!
Frequent and scheduled check ins are vital to succeeding in goals. If you’re emphasizing goals, you can turn an ordinary Monday opener (“Did anyone do anything fun this weekend?”) into a goal check (“Anyone move closer to their goals in the last week?”). You should share as well.
And check ins can be informal! Passing a student in the hall, now you can say:
- “Hey Jane, are you any closer to figuring out that level in your game?”
- “Oh, Tim! How is your swimming going?”
- “How much more work do you have until you get your merit badge?”
I mentioned this in the set up your room article, but with all this knowledge about your kids’ lives, it’s easy to devote part of your room to their amazing accomplishments outside of the classroom.