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Every professional development plan and employee evaluation contains a section for goal-setting. Often it is a list of things that you, as the employee, want to do better. Your supervisor nods, you discuss for a minute, and then unless you’re “in trouble” for something, you probably don’t revisit these again until the next time you’re evaluated and that document is hauled out.

Still, teachers are some of the most driven-to-improve people I’ve ever met. Good teachers are always making goals for the next quarter, devising new units to try, experimenting with organizational techniques. 

What are the best ways to set goals, so that they are more than a wish on a paper you see once every 6 months? Here’s part one of the research round-up for you!

4. SMART-er Than Before

Like failed New Year’s Resolutions, not a one of us hasn’t failed to follow through on a goal.

The problem is often not with our desire, but our follow through, our organization, our understanding of how goal-setting actually works. Let’s examine the research-based suggestion for a SMART goals:


Make sure that your goal isn’t the kind of thing that cant be broken into manageable steps. “Be More Organized” is so broad, its basically useless. “Update Student Files Monthly”, though- is.


Think of how you track student goals. How can your goal be measured? A checklist for each month that you update your student files? An additional column in your gradebook? What will work for you? 


Do you have the tools and skills to achieve your goal? Do you need to prepare forms, clean out a filing cabinet, schedule the time in advance? Make sure that all the tools and resources needed are easy to grab. 


Is your goal on the list of most important things that would improve your teaching practice? Don’t stress too much about this question, just think on it for a minute. Is there anything else that should come first? Ultimately, you’re the one with the answers. You know what will help you out the most!

T-Time Bound 

If your goal was to update student files monthly, there is a natural time schedule within which to observe. If not, how can you build in a check-in time or deadline for yourself? Open-ended time goals aren’t helpful without scheduled maintenance. 

In fact, here’s a free, downloadable worksheet. Don’t stress about the beginning of the school year! Instead, be SMART! 

3. The Document Lives & Breathes

Don’t be afraid to modify your goal sheet if something changes. Maybe you realize you need to check in more or less frequently. Maybe you realize that another way to monitor the goal is needed.

As long as you’re still moving forward, you can count your goal a success, even if you need to slow it down.

2. Incorporate Fun

For students, we have sticker charts or rewards. For you, its just as important. How will you reward yourself when you reach your goal? Or, how will you reward yourself along the way?

Set a check-in point for yourself and maybe squirrel away one of those coffee house gift cards you receive from students for just that occasion. Or a slushie coupon. Or a an appointment to get your nails done. Make it fun, and you won’t feel like you’re working in vain.


Remember, one goal accomplished is better than 100 abandoned. 

Which goals do you have for yourself this year? How will you make them work for yourself?


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