I've tried to set goals before, but the end result has always felt hollow, even when I achieved said goals. I remember setting a goal for attendance. It was a ridiculous idea, because I was banking on immune systems rather than student learning. Another time, I set goals based upon the number of students who met individual standards. It sounded great. However, when I accomplished my goals, I realized the flaw. I didn't accomplish the goals.
The students accomplished the goals and yet they weren't their goals, either.
So, this year, I'm doing student goals and collective class goals. However, I'm moving away from personal goals and switching to personal commitments. The idea behind a personal commitment is that it isn't a goal to accomplish so much as a promise of what I can and will do. I do this already as a dad. I don't set fatherhood goals, with spreadsheets and paragraphs of data analysis. Instead, I have personal commitments like being home at five o'clock, apologizing when I am impatient and reading stories to my kids each night.
Commitments differ from goals in the fact that they are often the steps taken to reach a goal and in the fact that they are typically less quantifiable than a goal. So, here are a few of my commitments this year. I'll add more to my list as time goes on:
- Provide formative feedback on each project and reflective feedback on all assignments (I've been able to do this before and I think it's important)
- Not simply know each student by name, but actually know each student's story
- Providing before or after school help for any student who is still struggling to understand a concept
- Conference with each student twice a week
- Develop a positive classroom culture where students help negotiate the norms, rituals and goals
- Contact each parent at least once a month and send home a weekly newsletter written by the students
- Paint a mural, even if it's a "mobile mural"
- Make sure there is intervention and enrichment in every lesson, along with the standing centers (built for enrichment)