Goal setting. I knew we were going to do some of that, and thought to myself, “I’m good with goal setting. I’m task oriented. Set a goal. Get it done. It’s not that hard.”
I think I realized how wrong I was on the first slide of the presentation.
We learned about what Deborah Helsing calls the “New Years Resolution Model of Change” – we say we’re going to do something like eat better or exercise, and we do it for a few weeks, and then we do it less, and then by June we can’t even remember what the goal was in the first place.
I considered goals I’ve set for myself in the last year and how determined I was to achieve them, and then I sheepishly waited for lightning to strike. I realized that something that seems unbearably important to me on one day seems like too much trouble and thus “not a big deal” on another day. The diet analogy works here…just one cookie won’t hurt…I’ll make up the calories by eating well tomorrow…before you know it you’re having ice cream for dinner again. Not that I’ve ever done that ;)
The same can be said for professional goals.
“I’m going to get into classrooms every day” until I’m staring at 100 unread emails.
“I’m going to write positive notes to 5 teachers every week” until it’s Friday and I haven’t written any and I’m tired and want to go home.
“I’m going to check on Kid So-and-So first thing every morning” until the buses are late for the field trip and the ice maker is leaking and a parent is on the phone waiting for me.
Helsing had us start with 3-4 goals we have. Then we had to pick one that was very meaningful to us. We wrote the goal in the context of ourselves so that barriers outside of ourselves would not get the way. She gave us the sentence stem “I am committed to getting better at…”
The process she took us through had several steps, and after each we shared with a partner. Perhaps my favorite part of the exercise was the way she stopped and gave several examples before she asked us to do anything. The examples made all the difference in my understanding of the work. I need to remember that when I’m working through professional development planning.
I don’t want to detail every part of her process because I feel like I may not do it justice and I don’t want to misrepresent her work. I will share personally that my exercise shook out like this:
I commit to observing the often small expectations on my campus. For example, we require all teachers to have a safe place and a friends and family board, but I’ve never checked to see that it’s happening. We’re going to work in August to establish some agreed upon consistency in math and language arts. I need to look for those things in classrooms or we’re wasting our time making the list in the first place.
I digressed – I was going to keep this short!
I learned about myself that the reason I don’t do a good job of looking for little things is that I’m afraid teachers will think I don’t trust them. I’ve worked hard to establish trust, and I’m afraid I will erode that if I start doing what can be perceived as “nit picking” little things. So the way I achieve my goal isn’t even about deciding to do it, but it’s rather about overcoming this worry that I will break trust and working to maintain trust even when I’m looking for small, but significant, things.
There’s lots more. We talked about our behaviors and assumptions and how to test them. I was really challenged to think about improving my practice by thinking about what barriers I’m putting in my own way. The challenge included pushing ourselves first in a way that is safe in order to enact greater change and overcome more barriers. So powerful!
To close, Helsing wished us “great leaps and safe landings.”
I like that.