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Empowering Through Education by Judianne Jayme

New year, new goals

By Judianne Jayme

I am writing this in my pyjamas, at the halfway point of my holiday break. Let me start by saying that this break is much needed by both school staff and the students. The group I have this year has been patient and hard working, barely antsy about the break as it approached. Usually, the Friday before break is a time when teachers and students alike think to themselves “Yeah. It’s time to sleep in and not work for two weeks.”

My last article explained the importance of finding balance between professional obligations and your priorities, focusing on you and your relationships with loved ones. I sincerely hope that you were able to spend quality time with loved ones this holiday season.

The beginning of a new year is a natural transition for all of us. We think of new goals and new opportunities. Think to yourself: what is it that I want most to accomplish in this new year, and how will I get myself there? This also applies for students. I begin each new term with goal setting. Their goals should be SMART goals (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely).

Specific and measureable

Goals need a target. “I will do better in math” is too vague of a goal. “I will learn how to multiply decimals” is a more targeted focus. This goal is also measureable; data will tell us if this student can multiply decimals. I teach my students that data is just assessment. It is feedback to help point us where we will go next in instruction. If a student gets two out of 10 questions correct, we take this information to find patterns in their errors. This leads us to what concepts that student is having difficulty with. A wise man once explained to me, “there is no such thing as failure, there is only feedback.” It’s amazing what this concept does for the confidence of students and their willingness to take risks in the classroom.

Achievable

We cannot set children up to be unsuccessful. Let’s say a student’s goal is to “get all 4s on my report card,” but is currently working at 2s and 3s. Let that child know that that goal is not impossible, but let’s focus on the smaller steps first to get us to that point. When they see their success and it’s measurable in smaller steps, they will not be disappointed.

Relevant and timely

Have a framework for your goals, and, because they are specific, have a time limit for them. Vague goals like “I will do better in math” are lifetime goals. “I will learn how to multiply decimals” can be a goal by the end of this term.

When SMART goals are in place, productivity and self-esteem skyrockets. Students often exceed their own expectations, only to set an entire new set of SMART goals for themselves. This type of self-direction can be expected of all students, keeping in mind that much younger students will need more guidance. Do not underestimate, though, the ability of kids to set and achieve their own goals and take ownership of their learning.

Parent tip

What are your own SMART goals for 2015?

Remember: “I will lose weight” is not a SMART goal. “I will lose 20 pounds by the end of spring through exercise and healthy eating habits” is a SMART goal.

Share your goals with your child! Be their role model. If they see you working on a goal and taking it seriously, they will most likely follow suit. You are, after all, their first and most important teacher.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Best of luck, and stay SMART! ☺

Judianne Jayme is a third year educator teaching sixth grade in the Winnipeg School Division.

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