Most schools hold open houses or back-to-school nights early in the year, allowing parents a chance to meet teachers, principals and other families with children in the same class. Another opportunity for teachers and parents to communicate is through parent/teacher conferences, a perfect stage for educators and families to work together to set goals for the upcoming year. These events, plus others held throughout the academic year, are excellent opportunities for teachers and parents to identify common goals that address the student’s individual learning styles as well as the school’s larger objectives.
Too often, however, academic year goals can be vague and not as clear as they should be. A child may state that he wants to become a better reader, or a parent may wish to be more involved in school events, but without being more specific in terms of how these goals will be reached, chances are they won’t get very far off the ground.
Teachers who practice the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) goal-setting method have an advantage when it comes to clear communication with parents about academic achievement. A thorough understanding of what needs to happen and exactly how will ensure that students and their parents are better equipped both in school and home when it comes to academic success.
Below are some helpful SMART goal techniques for teachers to discuss with parents and students early in the school year.
- Brainstorm about the process of goal setting. What have been some previous academic goals? Does everyone have a good understanding of the concept of goal setting?
- Talk about the purpose of goal setting. Why is it so important for goals to be SMART? Generate a list of previous goal experiences, and then ask students/parents what the purpose was behind these particular goals. Be open to feedback and reflection, especially if the student/parents feel the goals weren’t met. Offer your own ideas, but withhold any judgment.
- Explain the SMART goal method and how it can be used effectively to be successful in school and beyond.
- Give students their own goal-setting journals, allowing them creative freedom to decorate the covers and take ownership of the process.
- Once the students have some ideas, they can compose their SMART goals and write one on the first page of their journal. Ask parents and children to sign a commitment of agreement.
- Compose new goals regularly and consistently, adding both short-term and long-term ones to the journal. Guide students (and parents) so that the wording of the goals is always SMART.
- As the school year progresses, encourage students to take notes and perhaps even write reflective journal entries about their experiences. Once a goal is accomplished, students can check it off in their notebook and celebrate another success.
- Depending on the age of the students, parental involvement will vary. With younger students, consider sending their notebooks home weekly, inviting parents to send their own feedback on how their child is working towards his/her goals from home. Older students will be ready to take ownership of their goals without as much parent involvement, though this should never mean teachers and parents of upper grade levels shouldn’t communicate regularly.
SMART goals can work for everyone, from the youngest kindergartener to the principal about to retire. Teachers who make the effort to work with parents on smart goals for their child are more likely to enjoy a rewarding and success-filled school year!