January is typically the time of year for resolutions and starting over. We’ve all read the articles and blogs expounding on how lose weight, exercise more, read more, be more fully present, etc. I hadn’t expected to write a follow up to Here We Go, 2011, but recent events superceded what I had planned to write, so here’s one more reading on the annual topic of “goals and resolutions.”
In the classroom, it’s the time of year that lends itself to looking back on our fall hopes and dreams, as well as our class guidelines, in order to set our sights on what lies ahead. This year, it seemed particularly challenging to carve out the time do to get this done. By mid-January we hadn’t done that, and I was getting antsy. I knew it was time to nudge my kids to do more. I felt that I needed a sound-check myself. I needed to know where/what/why they wanted to do more so I had a fuller-picture of who they are at this moment and could do my best to get them to the next stage.
Through the use of Responsive Classroom practice, (hopes and dress, rules and logical consequences, teacher language) and using the book Dream: A Tale of Wonder, Wisdom and Wishes, we just put aside the rest of what we “should be doing,” reflected on what we’ve accomplished so far and made the time articulate our next hopes and dreams.
In the fall, not matter the grade, a child’s hope can be anything – drawing, friendship, recess, math. By January, I narrow the focus to the “school part” of our day. Children wrote key words to identify strengths and growing edges in each academic part then picked one to focus on. Most had a pretty good idea of where they are and appreciated affirmation of their self-assessment and/or accepted suggestions gracefully.
I didn’t let them off the hook there. They also had to identify three steps toward achieving these goals. And a couple of people to help them. Together we determined how they’d know if they accomplished that goals Many loved this activity. Many would have rather eaten the paper they were writing on. We talked about challenges and the work it takes to over come them. We talked about the feeling of pride an accomplishment once you put your best into achieving those goals, even if you don’t’ full hit the mark. We talked about how there were personal, and without the feeling that you own them, you won’t be invested in working toward them. These were thoughtful conversations that really pushed some of eight- and nine- year olds to consider their actions and desires in ways they hadn’t before.
At the end of each stage I was blown away but what had transpired. It reminded me of the work Michele Woodward and Laurie Foley do with adults in their coaching work. It reminded me of the goal setting I see competitive athletes do with trainers and coaches. It reminded me the wisdom of the yogis who tell us that pain and difficulty are not to be avoided, but accepted and embraced.
Wait, this is third grade. Are they really doing this?
Yes. Yes. Yes! Not only did they articulate all these steps in goal setting, but they were willing to make them public. The goals are on the wall and a part of our Morning Meeting sharing. When someone makes a step toward doing one of those goals steps, the class recognizes their efforts. Just for fun, we are making wordle clouds (wordle.net) of words to keep us inspired and working on the goals.
We put aside guided reading groups and some spelling work that morning. And the next day, didn’t continue developing our fictional characters according to the original plan. What we did do was to develop ourselves in ways far beyond literacy instruction to add one more layer of self-confidence, autonomy, and the life-long habit of deciding what you want to do and how you’re going to get there.
The process and the learners involved are remarkable, and I know they’ll be setting goals and working toward those goals for months and years to come. It’s keeps me honest to my own goals and the encouraging words they have for each other is just one more wonderful thing about life in the classroom!