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Setting Goals for The School Year During COVID

By Kelly Mendoza

As a teacher at the start of this school year, you likely feel anxious and out of your comfort zone. Maybe way out of your comfort zone! Most, if not all, classrooms are different right now due to COVID-19, whether it’s distance learning, hybrid learning, or social distancing in the classroom. You’ve already had to change up your lesson plans to accommodate to the new changes, including using more technology with students. So setting goals might be the last thing on your mind, as you might just be hoping you can keep your head above water!  

But teachers are resilient! And you likely do have goals of things you’d like to try or accomplish in your classes. Maybe it’s trying out a new tool in a distance learning assignment? Maybe it’s using a flipped classroom method? Or recording yourself teaching lessons or a screencast? These are all great goals! But sometimes a goal may seem so overwhelming, we don’t know how to get there, or even how to get started. 

We’re going to break down your goal into two steps: 1) Writing it down using the SMART Goal framework, and 2) Breaking it down into micro-goals. 

First, think of a goal — a kind of bigger goal — that you would like to achieve at some point this school year. Maybe you’ve already started on it, that’s okay! Got that goal in mind? Alright! Next, look at the My Teaching SMART Goal template. Download the template or print it out. What is a SMART goal? It stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This framework will help you think through the details of the goal that will make it a reality. For example, take the Specific step. I could say:

I want to try screencasting this year. 

But this is not specific enough. Screencasting … What? When? Where? How? So a more specific version of that goal could be:

I want to screencast two 30-minute lessons per week, through the end of the semester. 

Do you see how making this goal more specific increases the vision of it becoming a reality? 

So go ahead, fill out the template and define your SMART goal. And did I mention, people who write down goals accomplish more than those who do not. (See a summary of the study by Gail Matthews at Dominican University.) 

Second, break down your goal into micro-goals, which are smaller, measurable steps. You could think of it as a journey, like a road trip or climbing a mountain. What will you do or see along the way to get closer to your goal? Look at your calendar. What smaller goals are feasible to achieve, and by what dates? For instance, with the goal I want to screencast two 30-minute lessons per week, through the end of the semester, I would need to block off time to: 1) Learn the screencasting tool, such as Screencastify, 2) block off time to identify lessons and plan slides or visuals for the screencast, and 3) reserve time to record the lesson, and 4) upload the screencast and assignment to my learning management system for students. Maybe I add a certain number of lessons I want to screencast to my goal – say my goal is 10 – and when I complete each one, I do something to indicate achieving that milestone, such as a gold star on the calendar! There are many ways you can track your micro-goals: 

  • Use an online calendar. Break out the color coding and use your online calendar, such as Google Calendar, to add milestones you want to reach. Block out time to do the work needed towards your goals. 
  • Use a goal tracking app. Goal tracking apps have fun bells and whistles, such as notifications, to help you document goals, record progress, and follow multiple goals at once. Check out this list of goal tracking apps you could use for teaching, or use for other life goals too. 
  • Use a good ol’ paper. Get creative and draw out your big goals and the micro goals leading up to it on a piece of construction paper. Maybe you draw a mountain, with your big goal at the top, and micro-goals leading to the top (don’t forget specifics and dates)! Maybe you draw and cut yourself out on a sticky note as a little person, moving your way up the mountain as you achieve your micro-goals. Hang up your visual next to your desk or laptop, so you’re reminded

So, does the idea of setting and achieving a big goal this school year seem achievable? Take a moment and think of the feelings you will have when you reach your goal — pride, gratification, fulfillment, and delight!  

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