The beginning of the school year brings excitement, stirs up nerves, and offers a fresh start. There is anticipation of the new possibilities and seeing familiar faces again. Some nerves in the form of butterflies appear as students wonder about the unknowns. It is certainly a new beginning for all, which can be recognized by a pristine white school planner, the colorful stylus in a school supplies case, or a new name tag to make a student’s learning space their own...
The beginning of the school year brings excitement, stirs up nerves, and offers a fresh start. There is anticipation of the new possibilities and seeing familiar faces again. Some nerves in the form of butterflies appear as students wonder about the unknowns. It is certainly a new beginning for all, which can be recognized by a pristine white school planner, the colorful stylus in a school supplies case, or a new name tag to make a student’s learning space their own.
The beginning of a new school year for a child is a period of transition that is similar to a new year, a new decade, or a new chapter in one’s adult life.
While motivation is high, students and teachers are feeling recharged, and entire families are energized by the beginning of school routines, it is time to channel that energy and act purposefully to set a roadmap. It is the ideal moment to set goals for the new school year.
That is just what Crane students did at the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year. Each student was given a first day of school sign to fill out with their age, the date, and their goal for the new academic year.
Also on the first day of school, fourth graders wrote letters to their future selves and discussed what they want to accomplish this year, their predictions and hopes, and what they are looking forward to. The students then sealed the envelopes and glued them into their writing journals. They will open them and read them at the end of the year. Fourth grade teacher Ms. Bagish notes, “This activity never fails to amaze them with how much they grew as scholars and individuals.”
By asking students to think about what they want to accomplish and what goals they would like to achieve over the course of a year, adults are helping to lay the foundation that is believed to be critical in one’s ability to succeed in life. First and foremost, a child is building self-confidence. In an article titled “Goal Setting for Students, Kids, and Teens” (www.positivepsychology.com, 01-09-2020), Courtney E. Ackerman, MSc. notes that teaching children tools and mechanics of goal setting gives them small wins early in life that help them develop belief in themselves.
The article goes on to discuss further benefits of goal setting for youth, including:
￫ Increasing awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses
￫ Facilitating effective visualization
￫ Providing direction
￫ Encouraging prioritization
￫ Differentiating between reality and wishful thinking
￫ Building responsibility for one’s self
￫ Improving decision making
￫ Providing an experience of success
What are the tools that children need in order to receive the benefits of effective goal setting and ultimately transform their first day of school goal into an accomplished goal by the end of the academic year?
There are numerous techniques for goal setting, but we will look at two of these - the A-B-C of Goals and S-M-A-R-T goals.
The A-B-C of Goals was coined by Frank L. Smoll, a Ph.D., and a working psychologist at the University of Washington. His work focused on goal setting for athletes, but his findings can be applied to a more general audience. Smoll defined effective goals as those that are:
The S-M-A-R-T goals, as named in a management research paper of the Washington Power Company by George T. Doran in 1981, shares similarities with Smoll’s A-B-C’s and is a widely known method for setting productivity goals. The purpose of a smart goal is to establish a plan that helps the individual implement manageable steps to achieve the goal.
S-M-A-R-T goals stand for:
Specific: Can you focus on a more particular area and then build upon it?
Measurable: Will you be able to quantify or assess qualitative attributes to help gauge your progress toward the goal?
Attainable/Achievable: Given where you are right now and your own abilities and circumstances, is this truly a possible goal for you?
Realistic: Is there a practical plan in place that will be easy to implement?
Time-bound/Timely: Can you add focus to your goal by including a time frame for the goal and the individual tasks?
Aside from being clever acronyms, the A-B-C’s and S-M-A-R-T goals guide us to form more focused, achievable goals. Adults and many middle school students can work with these techniques. For our younger students, the ideas can be simplified. We can take our beginning of the year question a couple steps further by asking, “What are two things you could do to help you achieve that goal this school year?” And, possibly, “What obstacles might you face and how can you prepare so that they don’t throw you off track?”
Parents might want to try this at home. Ask your child what their goal for the year is and see if you can ask questions that will lead them to refine/re-focus their goal or map out the steps to get there. This could be in the form of a conversation, game, bucket list, vision board, or simply mapping a goal much the way Crane students learn basic math with number bonds. There is a goal-setting style for every type of learner!