Teachers and students often set goals at the start of a new year. However, just because those goals are set doesn’t offer a guarantee that they will be met. In fact, there are many mistakes teachers and students can make on their goal setting journey. These mistakes might leave everyone feeling discouraged or frustrated, which leads to abandoning those goals altogether. Here are some goal setting mistakes to avoid in the classroom.
Goal Setting Mistakes to Avoid
Choosing Too Many Goals
When sitting down to set goals, we often think about each and every little thing that needs improvement. While it would be ideal to turn all of these issues around, it’s just not feasible to tackle them all at one time. Instead, choose one or two that need immediate attention and put all of your energy into those goals. Over time, you can gradually add in more goals or swap out goals, as needed. Remember, it’s about quality not quantity.
Setting Goals Without Thinking of the Big Picture
When you’re ready to set goals, you can’t just randomly choose something, cross your fingers, and hope it works. You already know what strengths and weaknesses your students have, so identify what needs the most improvement to help your classroom function at its peak level and start there.
Starting Too Big or Too Small
Setting goals in the classroom is a lot like Goldilocks visiting the bears’ cottage in the woods. As she sat in the chairs, one was too big, one was too small, and one was just right. Finding that sweet spot is so important and not always easy to see right away. When you set goals that are too big, everyone will get frustrated quickly or give up. Likewise, when you set a goal that is too easy to achieve, what’s the point of even setting goals? Setting goals should push you and your students out of your comfort zone, but in a way that helps everyone grow.
Setting Vague or Nonspecific Goals
As I mentioned earlier, you need to have the big picture in mind when setting goals. If your goals are too vague or not specific, they won’t align with the big picture. And when that happens, your progress will come to a screeching halt.
Setting Goals Without a Clear Timeframe
So you see the big picture and you’ve set specific goals – now what? Those goals aren’t just going to happen overnight. And when you’re in the classroom, you don’t have an entire year to meet them. You need to have a plan in place for when those goals will be met. Think about the big picture and what steps need to happen to get there. This will help you set the timeframe. But, don’t forget to add a little wiggle room because there will be some unexpected surprises that pop up.
Not Making Time to Reflect
Whether your timeline is 1 week, 1 month, or even longer, you can’t just wait for the timer to go off to see how your students are doing. You need to build in time to reflect on what’s working and also make time to adjust, as needed. Your students will also need encouragement along the way in order to stay motivated and on track.
Focusing on the Negative
When it comes to setting goals, you are more likely to make progress when you look at things with a positive frame of mind. Working towards a goal takes hard work. Obstacles will come your way that can set the whole plan off track. When you focus on the negative or expect perfection, things will snowball out of control very quickly. One easy way to stay positive is to help students recognize and celebrate the progress being made towards each goal.
Choosing the Wrong Audience
As classroom teachers, each year presents you with a fresh group of students and new challenges. What worked for the previous classroom may not work (or even be needed) for the next. When you set goals with the target audience in mind, you’re already on the right track.
Helpful Tips & Tricks
Ready to get started with goal setting in the classroom? Here are some helpful blog posts, resources, and picture books.
You can read more about how I helped my second graders set goals and track progress here:
Classroom Goal Setting part one | part two
You can find my favorite goal tracking sheets here:
Classroom Goals (editable)
Grab some picture books to help your students set goals in the classroom. You can find my favorite picture books for goal setting here.
You might also enjoy these blog posts:
- Classroom Rewards That Won’t Break the Bank
- Classroom Management Tips
- Tips for Managing Hallway Behavior
- Classroom Economy: How I Use Money in the Classroom
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