Why I Start the School Year with SMART Goals

Going back to school provides a fresh start for both teachers and students. When planning for the new school year, I think about the goals that I want my students to achieve by the end of the year. For me, that means all students passing chemistry with a 2.5 or higher, all students being able to critically analyze data to support a claim, and all students reading and understanding complex grade level texts. My goals for my students are challenging, but that is because I have high expectations and I know my students can work to reach them. By communicating my goals at the beginning of the school year, I have something to frame my class and curriculum around. Everyday we are working to reach these goals.

Just as important as it is for me as a teacher to set goals, I believe that it is equally as important for my students to set their own goals as well. At the beginning of every school year between ice breakers, going over the syllabus and classroom expectations, and team building activities, I set aside time for my students to set their own academic and personal goals for the school year. Not only is it important for them to set their own goals, it helps me to gain insight about my new students and helps me to push them throughout the year to work towards their goals. I frame the lesson with a short inspirational video highlighting the fact that everyone has a potential, they just need to unleash it (thanks Nike for some great inspirational commercials). This helps my students to really think about what they want their goals to be.

Just as with any classroom assignment, I introduce the criteria for success for their goal writing. When writing goals, they must be SMART goals- specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

After writing drafts of their goals and going through peer review for the SMART goal criteria, my students write their final personal and academic goals on bright pieces of paper that I hang on our classroom wall for the entire year. For me, it is important for my students to see their goals on the wall every time they walk into my classroom as a reminder for them of the goals that they set. As a class, we are working towards my classroom goals and are supporting and pushing one another towards accomplishing each other’s personal and academic goals.

This is part of how I build my classroom culture and accountability systems. I drive the student learning in my classroom by having students set, share and reflect on their goals. Students become more invested in the classroom when they know you care about them, their goals and their futures.

Have you set goals for the new school year?

How do you get students invested in their own success?

What do you think?

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Chelsea Culbert

Chelsea Culbert

Chelsea Culbert is a proud product of New York public schools where she graduated with her International Baccalaureate diploma. She went off to attain her B.A. in Chemistry with concentrations in Public Health and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Studies at NYU. While at NYU, she started the chapter of “Strive for College,” a non-profit organization that connects college students as mentors to assist high schoolers throughout the college application and financial aid processes. Immediately after graduation, Chelsea pursued her teaching career with Teach for America Los Angeles. While teaching, Chelsea completed her Master’s degree in Urban Education at Loyola Marymount University. Chelsea is currently teaching at her Teach for America placement school in Lincoln Heights where she serves as Department Instructional Lead, Instructional Leadership Team member, and coaches Varsity soccer.

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