In her keynote address at SXSWedu this year, Jennifer Gonzalez—a thought-leader who inspires tens of thousands of teachers across the globe via her blog Cult of Pedagogy— examined the “aerodynamics” (habits and practices) of exceptional schools. She investigates the forces at play in any school district and how exceptional schools manage these forces, like an airplane navigating turbulence.
One of the chief elements of increasing the thrust and decreasing the drag of your “airplane,” she says, is setting precise goals. She explains this may sound like a “no duh” to many educators, but she claims teachers tend to list their dreams when asked for their goals. Dreams might sound noble and exciting, but they often don’t come to fruition. They’re too abstract. Instead, Gonzalez encourages paying more attention to their somewhat less fun, but more effective twin: goals.
Gonzalez recommends using SMART goals to help you anchor your dreams in practical, tangible and mediated steps and tasks. The approach was created as a guide in setting objectives in the areas of project management and personal development. The model first appeared in the November 1981 issue of Management Review by George T. Doran.
This is what a SMART goal is:
- Specific: distinct, unequivocal, particular—vs. general, ambiguous, vague
- Measurable: quantifiable, obvious, definite—vs. incalculable, unbounded
- Attainable: obtainable, achievable—vs. undoable, unrealistic
- Relevant: applicable, pertinent—vs. unconnected, peripheral, inconsequential
- Timely: opportune, seasonable—vs. inexpedient, ill-chosen, unfavorable
Although it feels really good, there is more to setting and achieving goals than the satisfaction of checking it off your list. Goals set your trajectory, determine your direction and move you toward a destination.
Remember the airplane Jennifer Gonazalez had you imagine? It is already airborne and flying. Even small adjustments to flying patterns can result in major shifts of direction, for better or worse. Goals are the small corrections you make in your airplane’s trajectory after getting off track. They aren’t destinations in and of themselves, but they help you chart a course to where you want to go. Goals help you define your direction and stay the course. That’s why they matter so much.
With a thorough reflection practice and a solid goal setting plan, you can arrive at your dreams. Because you, educator, are unstoppable.
As you go about charting your own path for a summer of personal learning or vision setting for your school or district, we encourage you to pause, reflect and spend concentrated time establishing some goals. To support you and your unstoppableness, we’ve developed the following goal-setting template for you to use as the school year winds down and summer comes into focus.
We hope this template will support you in walking more confidently in the direction of your dreams. Now, bring on the summer.
Haven’t checked out our reflection template? Read about the benefits of reflection and use bulb’s customizable reflection template here.