Setting Goals and Keeping Them! HAPPY NEW YEAR!
I just made a big move from Kansas City, KS where I was teaching at a K-5 school to Lansing, MI where I will take over a K-8 position as the music teacher at the Lansing Charter Academy. I’m super psyched about the new position and as you might imagine, I’m chomping at the bit to get into my room, set up all my stuff, start thinking about the new curriculum, and learn about everything I’ll need to know. Will I have to work with a music house nearby to rent instruments? How does that work? How about repairs of instruments? What is my K-5 schedule like? How can I adapt my lessons to fit this new rotation? I have a lot of questions… but I also have a lot of time. Michigan has a big tourism industry and so Michigan students don’t typically start back until after Labor Day… I’m not actually allowed into my building until August 24th and even then only for new teacher orientation (building level). Next week I travel to Detroit to do a new teacher orientation for 4 days… FOUR DAYS! I’m trying to be excited and not overwhelmed.
I just want into my music room so that I can get some things done. I want to start making plans and putting displays up on walls and unpacking boxes. But… I can’t. So, I’m going to try and focus all that “New Year” energy and make personal plans for the new year. And the more I think about it, this is probably a good thing. Often we get so focused on creating that amazing showstopper bulletin board or crafting the perfect first week lessons that we forget that we are starting a personal journey.
I went on a long run yesterday and it made me think about how a school year is much like a long distance run. If you don’t make plans for the journey, if you don’t set goals or figure out a path, it’s easy to get lost or tired or discouraged. Below are some ideas on how to set achievable goals and prepare yourself for the journey ahead so that you can make the most of your “New Year!”
Set Goals for Yourself and Your Students
Some of you might remember the name Vygotsky from professional development or education classes. Vygotsky developed the idea of the “Zone of Proximal Development” for students. The zone of proximal development (ZPD) has been defined as “the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance, or in collaboration with more capable peers” (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 86). Basically it is right past your comfort zone between what you know and what you could know. It’s a place that can absolutely be achieved through scaffolding and support from the teacher.
So, what goals can you put in that place, that Zone of Proximal Development? What goals can you make that are achievable with professional development, or guidance from another teacher, or help from a book or website? What goals can you make that are slightly past your expertise or comfort zone but that are absolutely within your reach?
Write Down Your Goals and Make them Public
We’ve also learned from “New Year’s Resolutions” that they are often forgotten or broken. Go to any gym or workout facility for December through March and you’ll find a normal flow in December, a huge amount of people in January, and then a slow drop off through February until you are back to your normal clientele in March. People make goals and plans for a new year and then their enthusiasm slowly drops off and they forget about their goal. Can you, right now, remember what your resolved on January 1st, 2015? I’ll be honest, I can’t.
So, here’s my advice. Make good, achievable goals for the new year. Be thoughtful about your goals (keeping your own personal ZPD in mind) and then WRITE THEM DOWN! Seriously, write them down. Put them next to your desk. Put them on pretty paper. Do whatever you need to do to look at them over and over again. Actively work towards meeting your goals. Stretch yourself. Keep thinking through and working through your goals on a weekly basis. You can do it!
And make them PUBLIC. So often we are afraid to declare to others what we’re planning on doing, because, you know, what if we fail? I say, put up those goals next to the front door of your music room and let people look! It might be that a lot of people won’t even notice, but probably some will. Posting your goals shows that you have goals and that you’re thinking ahead. So many teachers go through the paces and just let things happen as they come. Making and posting your goals shows that you are proactive and thinking forward. People might ask about your goals… hooray! What a great reminder and reinforcement! This type of reinforcement is why people go to Weight Watchers meetings. You are making a personal goal out loud and anyone who knows about it can ask you and help keep you accountable.
When I go running I have the “RunMeter” app that helps me stay on track. It breaks in through my running music playlist every once in a while and tells me how far I’ve run, my pace, my time, and then tells me how much I have left to go before I finish. I love this little reminder because it keeps me on task, reminds me of my goal, and is a little encouragement that I can make it back to my destination. Posting your goals and seeing them over and over is a reminder of what you want and where you’re headed.
My Goals for the Coming Year
1) I LOVE expressive movement and am so happy about what I’ve learned during my Orff levels, but I want to be a better movement teacher. Expressive movement is not easy for me and teaching it can often be a little scary. So often I just do folk dances and call it good, but I need to make sure to include more movement ALL the time. So, that’s a goal.
2) I also want to make sure that I’m really tracking student growth. It’s easy to check in informally with students to see how they’ve progressed and easy to write that little “check-in” down with an assessment app like iDoceo. Knowing student growth will help me plan better and will inform what I need to teach as I think about lesson plans.
3) Finally, in the Orff world student choice is king. You teach the kids their possibilities and make sure they’ve got the concept and then you let them run with it. I want to make sure that I’m keeping the focus on creation with the students and I want to make sure that I let them make choices. The more I let students take control of the final product the more ownership they will feel. More student choice!
Fun Freebie to Help You Set and KEEP Your Goals Alive
A new school year is like a long distance race. It’s not a sprint. It’s not a marathon necessarily. It’s a long distance run and it helps to make your goals and put them somewhere where you can remember them. I encourage you to sit down and think about what you really want to do this year and what things you think you can strive for. If you want, you can email your goals to me! My email is MakeMomentsMatter@gmail.com. Take a picture of your goals on your wall or on your desk and send me an email. I won’t post it publicly but I’d love to provide you with some encouragement and support as you start your journey through the new year!
Alright, lace up those shoes, put on your best running sweatband, make your goals and set your course, and let’s go have some fun!