Sunday, October 19, 2014

Stop Setting Goals with Your Students

Start Setting Intentions

"Don't do anything unless you INTEND to do it. "--Oprah Winfrey

For the longest I can remember as an educator, setting goals has been something that we do as a way to not only track student progress, but to give them ownership of their own educational progress.  What we hope happens when setting goals with kids is that they will focus on something attainable and strive to achieve it.  Some do, some don't.  There never seemed to be a real draw or significant result from setting goals.  I even tried having students set their own goals each week and define how they would achieve them.  Still, nothing significant.  Sure they were aware of their academic status, where they needed to go and where they needed to be.  But why didn't this act of setting goals work like we all hoped it would?  I don't have the answer, but I think I have an alternative that might elicit a better result.  

Our classrooms are in service of our students' stories.  Think about that.  Their stories matter.  As humans, we often become what we believe.  Our students become what we help them believe.  If we want them to rise to meet the life and success we want for them and that they deserve, we must change our focus and beliefs.  Setting goals fundamentally has a flawed perspective.  We focus on our deficits, figure out a limited place of achievement, set our sights on that place, and work to get there.  We begin with a deficit viewpoint.  

So what if we stop setting goals and start setting intentions?  Webster's Dictionary defines intention as a having a course or action as one's purpose or objective.  The course of action becomes their purpose.  If students focused their minds everyday on their intention to learn something, achieve something…if they name it, see it, feel that success…would they achieve at higher rates?  We shall see.  It is certainly worth making reflection questions and our classroom content objective our intentions each day.  Ask your students, "What do you intend to learn today?"  

When we think about the way things tend to be however we perceive them to be…you may have seen the quote about change your attitude, change your life?…well, what if our educational system, our states, our districts, our campuses, our classrooms, our teacher's lounges, our PTOs, our communities all perceive our student outcome success or failure as a reflection of our intention?  How might our attitudes about student work, objectives, lesson planning, etc. change?  If it isn't what we want, we MUST change our intention.  

As an educator, I must reflect honestly about what my intentions are when I write plans, give assessments, give feedback, communicate data.  Is my intention to comply with campus and administrative expectations?  Is my intention to one up a colleague?  Is my intention to keep my students busy and quiet?  Or is my intention to give them the most unforgettable learning experience I can offer them?  Is my intention to create the opportunities for my students to discover their own potential, to experience new learning, to make connections and delve deeper into content?  

It is our responsibility to check our intentions daily…in everything we do.  Without our intentions being focused on the positive potential in our classroom and within our students, we are setting up a reachable goal of the same old same old.  But why wouldn't we, along with our students, want to rise to our greatest potential?  

Excellence is the best deterrent of negative "stuff" so…be excellent!

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