I remember sitting in a long and unproductive board meeting for a school organization. The board of directors instructed us teachers to create a set of goals for the students to achieve in the new school year. On the surface, this seemed like a reasonable request, but for a school that claimed to be student-centered and progressive, it was everything but reasonable.
Our classrooms were filled with 30-35 students, each shaped so uniquely, at different performance levels, and from different backgrounds. There was a significant amount of push-back from the staff because it felt futile to create one set of goals for 300 different kids. It was regressive and conformist, the opposite of everything the school stood for.
Reluctantly, though, we did the work that so intimately involved the kids, without the kids. We set the goals, but they were static goals…
Say YES to Full-Vision Goals
A static goal may state, “I want to lose weight.” Full-vision goals, however, consider the many different paths to this goal such as, “I want to exercise twice a week” or “I want to eat more fruits and vegetables.” Both of these paths can lead to losing weight, but they may not fit every lifestyle. Static goals tend to set a desired endpoint for the journey, but they do not recognize the many milestones along the way. Those milestones are also worthy of acknowledgement and celebration.
My husband and I use the power of our kids’ imagination to cast a full vision for the new school year, which includes the process and the time involved in reaching a static goal. Most importantly, I ask “feelings” questions to identify the emotions attached to goal or the “why.” This is a key component to create a full-vision goal because our feelings drive our success. For example, I know that completing a new art project fills my daughter with joy. That feeling encourages her to create countless pieces of art, enhancing her skills each time.
Setting the full-vision goals should not be a chore. Use a fun activity to introduce the concept of designing a vision for what your child wants a successful school year to look like. Some examples of activities may include creating a vision board, decorating a fish bowl and adding fish shaped cards with full-vision goals, or making a necklace with one or more pendants that represent the vision for the new school year.
How to Get to the Full-Vision Goals
When my daughter is having trouble articulating what a successful school year looks like, we start with the static goals. After listing the static goals, I help her to brainstorm how she will reach each goal. What are the steps and checkpoints along the way? If your child is less likely to even create static goals, work backwards. Ask him or her what went wrong last school year or what went right? How do we change that, and how do we keep up the good work?
Some examples for younger students may look like:
- I will raise my hand at least two times a week in class.
- I will be quiet during circle time.
- I will be on time to class.
- I will double-check that I have all of my belongings before leaving school.
Tips for Success
- Guide your kids towards a full vision with specific and attainable goals.
- Work together to determine three or more ways to reach the static goals.
- Help your kids visualize multiple images of what success may look like by asking open-ended questions.
- Celebrate victories along the way. Remember that progress is also success!
It is important to remember that a successful year may look different for each child. The full-vision goals are most effective when parents can let go of their vision of a successful school year; in fact, I am constantly reminding myself to fully embrace my kids’ visions instead.