Hey friends! Get your ponchos because you are in the splash zone of one of my teaching tools and it’s about to get drippy in here.
In this seventh year of my teaching career, I’ve started structuring my units and content around the goals of the students. And while it’s easy as a 5th grade beginning band student to say your goal for two weeks from now (or one year from now) is to “be better at the trumpet,” you may feel overwhelmed about the process of creating an action plan unless your goal includes these criteria:
- Is it Specific? What about your trumpet playing do you want to improve? Maybe range? Articulation? Breath support? Endurance? Tone (the answer to this one is always)?
- Is it Measureable? How will you know if something is better? Can you put it up to a metronome and measure how fast you’re playing that passage? Can you play a note for 10 seconds longer than you could before?
- Is it Achievable? No, young student, you will probably not be able to play the Haydn concerto two weeks from now. But you will probably be able to expand your range by two whole steps if you worked on it!
- Is it Results-based? I visualize an improved version of myself doing the thing I’d like to achieve with my goal. It has to be something you can attach to an end result.
- Is it Time-bound? This one, in my opinion, is the MOST important when you are first starting to set SMART goals. Even if you fail to achieve the first goal you set, at the end of your time frame you now have new information about what you need to change and how long it will take for you to try again next time. Couldn’t get that passage up to 120 BPM, but could get it to 90 from a starting place of 78? Okay, next goal will be 108. (A little more than what they achieved next time because they now know the route to get there.)
So that’s my format with goal-setting that I use with my students. I give them space to discuss as a group what their goals as a whole band will be, and then they have some time to journal about what their personal goals should be as well. And what if they don’t reach the goals they set? This is okay in my class. Failure to reach a SMART goal is not really failure. It’s just a way to inform what our next goal should be. This takes the bad, “I’m not good enough for this,” personal feeling out of it and focuses students on the tasks.
This year I have a few personal goals and a New Year’s Resolution to reduce the amount of waste I produce as a consumer. For this post, I will be sharing my personal goals for the year.
My Personal Goals for 2018
The context of this is that I went into this year having just had a major shoulder surgery. Before my shoulder became such an issue, I was exploring my limits as a runner. I had finished two half marathon races and seen improved results (and physical feelings after) between the two. I also was practicing yoga 2-3 times per week, strong practices, in a studio environment and was frequently exploring those limits as well.
Of course having to keep my shoulder immobile for 6 weeks is going to put a damper on my fitness regime. So here are my physical fitness goals for this year:
- Run a half marathon race in the fall (October or November) with a time of 2 hours 30 minutes. A half marathon (13.1 miles) is a familiar distance for me and this is all about getting close to where I was. My first half marathon time was 2:26, and the second was 2:15, so I’m giving myself plenty of buffer room. I’m walking about 3-5 miles per day right now. Obviously I can’t run until my sling is off Jan. 25, but once that’s off I plan to start small. (1 mile at a time in the beginning…that seems like such a small distance but will probably feel much longer when I start back up.)
- Resume a regular yoga practice of 2-3 times per week, gentle enough to protect my shoulder but strong enough to strengthen my other muscle groups, by June. The 6 month mark after my December 15th surgery is when, according to my PT plan, I should be able to “resume all activities.” So if I follow through with the plan and follow all protocol I should be okay.
It’s important to know that when you’re working with a time frame as long as a year, there might be a need to adjust your goals as you find yourself getting closer faster or slower than you expected. You go with what feels good to you. You will probably not stick to your goal if your routine feels like torture, or if you don’t find it challenging enough.
I’m going to be candid about my financial context: 7 years after finishing schooling, I’m finally starting to feel like paying off my 8 outstanding student loans is achievable. All of my loans are currently less than $5,000, most are between $1-2k. I have paid off 2 of them completely (once when I got a substantial tax return, and again when I got overlapping paychecks from a change of employment). It feels GOOD.
Last year, I got married, we combined incomes into one bank account, we got a roommate whose rent check goes directly into savings, and we got a new car. So lots of financial activity going on in my life. Still, the thing that by far has the most interest to pay off and is the stupidest thing to have hanging over my head is that student loan debt. So with that in mind, here are my financial goals for this year:
- Pay off at least one student loan. Okay, so it’s a specific debt, measurable because when it’s paid it will be gone, results-based because it’s about getting rid of it, time-bound because I will do it by the end of this year. But how will I achieve this? Maybe this next one will help –
- Don’t buy any clothes. This should be the easiest one. It’s a goal achieved by NOT doing something. Same goes for sunglasses, jewelry, and probably shoes. I may make an exception for running shoes if my current pair wears out.
I’d love to be a person who is so organized I could say “I’ll take the money I saved from not buying clothes and put it towards this other thing!” But I don’t buy clothes unless I’m in a place where I don’t need a clothing budget. Therefore, I have no idea how much I spent on clothes last year. I judge myself often for this quality of my character. I’m working on it.
- Put money aside (specific amount I will keep private) for a big summer adventure. One of my best friends is getting married this summer, and I am the maid of honor! So I’m going to be traveling for awhile.
- Start saving for a new clarinet this fall. My clarinet I’ve had since 2005 broke last summer. Like, the wood cracked and the repair cost is more than the value of the actual clarinet. I’m heartbroken as playing chamber music is a really big part of my life. But here is an opportunity to become a better musician with a better tool. And until then, I have my trumpet.
I’m basically taking a gap year in the middle of the school year – I worked for 4 months, will be on disability for 3 months, and will be back at work for only 3 months. So my professional goals for the remainder of this school year?
- Stay calm and take at least 2 weeks to assess the progress students have made in my absence. I will breathe. I will reinforce behavior expectations I set at the beginning of the year. I will remember that kids are only human and it’s easy to forget the small stuff in band. I will be candid about mistakes when I make them in front of the students.
- Reduce clutter in the context of my unusual teaching situation. Actually organize the file box that lives in my trunk. Keep the original music parts in a folder in the file box and do not accidentally give them to students. Only bring materials I will absolutely need to my classroom situation.
- Brainstorm and memorize at least 3 activities students can do in the inevitable situation that some kid’s valve gets stuck and I have to fix it right then and there.
- Figure out a better classroom system for teaching clarinet players to play over the break. What will the other kids be doing at that time???
I know, my job is very specific.
It would be irresponsible for me to say, “This is how you create a SMART goal and these are mine!” And then for me to leave the post without giving you any ideas or tools for staying accountable to your goals.
I have to admit that this part is very challenging for me as a person. I reach out in a thousand directions and don’t often follow through with every route I explore. Everyone has different methods of self-monitoring that work for them. Here are some things that work for me:
- Google Calendar. (Or a paper calendar!!! Or a planner!) There are probably a thousand easier ways to keep track of your time-bound goals, but looking at a calendar helps me the most. I use the reminder feature constantly to remind myself to do my shoulder exercises, to help process how many days I did this or that or the other, keep track of what lesson I taught the third grade classes last week, and (VERY important since I am an itinerant teacher) where to be.
I only went to the wrong school once so far this school year!
A thing I do that helps me immensely: I color code my time commitments. Each school is its own color, doctor appointments are lavender, social plans are orange, music ensembles are dark purple, and I think volunteer things are yellow. When I start running again, I think they will be “Flamingo” colored.
- Mint. I love this app. You can keep track of all your money-related accounts, your credit card, student loan debts, savings, etc. They inform you of your credit score (which for me has risen 250 points since using this tool). They have a tool you can use to help fund your financial goals – a specific “Goals” tool. They also categorize your expenses for you. (Maybe I could find out how much I spent on clothes last year after all…)
- The 8,000 health tracker apps out there. Yeah, if you have a smart phone, there aren’t any excuses if you plan on achieving your goals. I use Runkeeper because they have good half marathon plans. I will take the workouts they schedule for me and jot them in my Google Calendar so I know when I’m done teaching that day, “Oh, I have to go home and run 4 miles.” Or if I have the foresight to look the day before, “Oh, I should bring my running clothes with me so I can run 4 miles before I get home.”
I don’t feel a big need to track my food intake, but I’ve heard good things about Chron-o-meter if that’s a goal for you. Shop around for apps that will help you achieve your goals!
- A journal or notebook. If one of your goals is to limit your screen time (which I’m having trouble with lately) you may consider using a notebook or journal to help keep track of your goal progress. There are a plethora of ways you can do this. Some ideas:
- Give each goal its own page or group of pages.
- Write down specific action steps for each goal.
- When you’ve worked on one action step, record what you did to get there. And maybe, how did it feel? What did you learn? How might you approach this differently next time? What failed? What felt comfortable or uncomfortable? (Sorry, my teacher is showing.)
- Friends. Share your goals with your friends. Do it. Do it! Share your progress. Share your failures. The more you talk about your goals to the people close to you, the more presence they will have in your everyday life. Your friends will be curious and ask about your progress. Your friends will hold you accountable. Your friends may even feel empowered to work with you toward their own, similar goals. A mutually beneficial friendship. What better thing is there?
I hope this post has been helpful for you in your journey. What did I miss? What have you done that’s worked for you? Please share in the comments! And have a lovely week.