Goal setting is an activity that many teachers undertake with their students and through my own experience often results in mixed success. One of the problems is that the goals are too vague and the steps to achieve them are not planned out. Even following the SMART Goal formula, results vary.
Some teachers that I have spoken to over the years, do not feel comfortable helping students set goals. This led me to question whether teachers themselves are actually proficient in goal-setting. My current school requires teachers to set annual goals. The quality of the goals set vary greatly in terms of their specificity, achievability and ability to be measured. This got me thinking further, why such variance in quality? Some of the responses that I received through discussion included:
- The process is contrived; teachers are required to set some goals in alignment with those of the school.
- We do not receive enough follow-up on whether we achieve our goals.
- I am not sure how to set goals; I have not really done this before.
- I prefer to keep my goals to myself.
The last response was certainly an interesting one and I questioned whether asking colleaguies to declare their professional goals was a bit too personal or even invasive? Reflecting further, I acknowledged that follow-up on the achievement of goals was certainly not carried out as extensively as it should be, to give genuine validity to the whole process; something to work on this year that’s for sure.
Interestingly, I stumbled across this TED talk from Derek Sivers, who suggests that perhaps we should keep our goals to ourselves:
Considering my own personal goals for a moment, I thought that maybe Sivers is onto something here. There have been times, where after setting a goal I have felt relieved to have shared it and while I began to work towards it, I did not end up achieving it. Indeed, this lead me to question whether declaring my goals in the first place was actually a good idea; I have beaten myself up from time to time about the shortcomings or some of my best colleagues have found the time to remind (ridicule) me!
Digging deeper, I found that there are plenty of goals that I have achieved, some of which I declared and others that I kept to myself. So what’s my stance on whether we should declare our goals?
I feel that successful personal goal setting does not have to be something that we declare to others. Involving others is important if you feel you need their support to achieve the goal or hold you to account. For school leaders, the latter can be seen as a form of courageous leadership, though who will bring it up if you do not reach the goal? Will you, yourself, sweep it under the carpet? For many leaders, however, declaring goals has to happen, so those following clearly understand what the team is trying to achieve together.
In terms of not declaring goals; there are also plenty of quiet achievers who map out their pathway to success, kicking goals along the way, often not sharing them until someone asks or they are happy that the goal has been achieved.
Finally, what I can say for sure, is we must have goals to give us direction, though we must not let the goal detract from the means of getting there. The journey is the fun part.