As a teacher, you should have very specific goals for yourself, your students, and the school you work for. Since you have children in your care and other colleagues that you work closely with, your goals will be much different than the average professional’s. However, there are effective and ineffective goals that you can set as a teacher. In this article, we hope to teach you the difference.
“SMART” goals are different than “smart” goals because they follow a particular rule set. The SMART system was created to facilitate the fulfillment of goals simply by setting better goals in the first place. It goes as follows:
- Specific: make sure your goal is clear, precise, and well-defined.
- Measurable: make sure your goal is accurately quantified by a level of earning or achievement.
- Achievable: your goal must be feasible to complete within a certain time frame.
- Relevant: your goal should align with your career, dreams, or other ideas.
- Time-bound: your goal must have a specific date or time range for completion.
The SMART system creates goals that make sense. SMART goals are well-defined and especially challenging to weasel your way out of. If you set a goal like, “I want my students’ average grade points to rise by 0.5% by the end of this year,” that’s a specific, quantified, time-based goal. However, something like, “I want to raise my students’ grade point average,” does not have a time or value quantification, so it’s easy to dismiss it or fail altogether.
If possible, you should always aim to make your goals SMART goals. For a teacher, it’s not always possible to make a goal a SMART goal, since the completion of many of your goals will depend on the performance of your students. However, you should still attempt to make these goals as SMART as you can anyway.
Now that you know how important it is to set SMART goals, we’re going to introduce to you some of the smartest, most effective goals for teachers to have, both for themselves and for their students. We’ve taken some of the best teaching goals below and compiled them to stimulate your own formation of intelligent, thoughtful goals.
It is the duty of the professor to inspire the students who take their courses, to teach them related knowledge, and to sow the seeds of curiosity and interest. Every teacher should have a goal of inspiring their students, if not to pursue a career in a subject, then just to learn about it.
A teacher has direct authority over whether or not a student will develop an interest in a particular subject. If a teacher is bad at teaching a given topic, or if the student just has trouble with learning it, the student is much more likely to shun that subject in the future. However, if a teacher helps a student to learn well and piques their curiosity in a subject, they may develop a lifelong interest in it.
A teacher also functions as a support system for students. While many students are capable of studying and learning on their own, it is the job of the teacher to guide, instruct, and support the students that come to them for help.
These students may need the special help that the teacher can provide in order to learn difficult concepts. If a teacher is unable or unwilling to help, the student could become frustrated with the subject, which could impact them for the rest of their life.
Make Learning Fun
One of the most essential goals of the teacher is to make learning fun for the student! Research shows that when students are having fun, they learn significantly better. When the fun stops, the learning slows or stops, too. We’ve included some basic ideas for fun classroom learning games below.
- Charades: have students come to the front of the classroom and act out an idea or word. The winner acts out the next one! This exercise is excellent for stimulating student participation and deductive reasoning.
- Hangman: Hangman is simple, but it’s excellent for improving students’ spelling skills.
- Bingo: Bingo is a versatile, classic game that’s great for motivating students, especially if prizes are offered for getting a bingo! Bingo is also great because it can be used with a number of different subjects.
- Pictionary: this game is similar to charades, but a student draws the word they’re describing instead of acting it out. It promotes drawing skills, deductive thinking, and participation.
Having ample playtime is part of a healthy child’s natural development, and tying this playtime in with learning makes it even better! Think about it – if your lessons seem dull to you, think about how they feel to the student who has to do them, especially if they’re young. It’s hard enough for kids to keep their attention on something for an extended period of time without it being boring, too.
However, making your lessons fun is important for older students, too. Even teens and young adults retain information better when they’re learning in a fun, memorable way. You may have to get a bit more creative with your games and activities with older students, but the same rules apply.
In order to keep your teaching as accessible and streamlined as possible, any teacher should have goals to organize their resources, whether these be lesson plans, papers, or even thoughts! No student likes the teacher who loses papers or takes months to grade and return students’ work.
Organization benefits any classroom setting for a number of reasons. For one, keeping smartly organized folders or binders of students’ work helps to facilitate quick grading and return. This also helps minimize mistakes that could be made in the calculation of grades and reduces the occurrence of assignment loss.
Organization in the classroom is important, too. While many professors have abandoned things like assigned seating in college courses, some teachers claim that assigned seats cut down on talking in the classroom and help students focus. However, similar claims on the benefits of non-assigned seating have been made for helping students make good decisions for themselves.
The ultimate decision is up to you. If you’re a teacher who captivates their students to pay attention and learn, assigned seats could largely be unnecessary. Unassigned seating does indeed create more chaos in the classroom, and it may generate some disadvantages for the teacher, since you may not know where a student is sitting on a given day.
However, other sources claim that unassigned seating makes students happier in the classroom, in addition to teaching useful skills. If more than one student wants to sit somewhere, they will need to work it out in a civil way with compromise or some other agreement. Unassigned seating also makes for a more informal classroom setting, which helps students and teachers feel comfortable together.
Obviously, fairness is a requirement of any teacher’s job. Every teacher should aim to show impartiality towards every student and banish favoritism from the classroom. When one student feels like they’re liked less than another, they can feel embarrassed, dissatisfied, and angry. These feelings can affect their academic performance and interest in learning.
However, fair is not always equal. Sometimes, students who struggle may need more attention than students who do well naturally. It’s essential to do this while still making better students feel appreciated and loved. Showing fairness to each student can be one of the biggest balancing acts of a teacher’s career.
In any environment, a teacher will have favorite students, and they will also have students who rub them the wrong way. It is the teacher’s responsibility to control these reactions to their students. While favoritism and dislike of individual students used to be an acceptable practice, we’ve come to learn that it can affect students’ learning processes drastically. Partiality should be avoided whenever possible.
We’ve listed some extra-special things to watch out for below.
- Look for unintentional body language or cues. Even if you try to maintain impartiality, you may give it away in the ways that you act and speak. Try having a third party watch you during a class and alert you to any cues, or set up a video camera in the classroom and watch how you act.
- Grade each student according to what you believe they can achieve. Increasingly, we’re discovering that judging all students based on one strict scale is the wrong way to go. Try instead to judge each student based on their own strengths, weaknesses, and hidden potential.
- Make sure you rotate through all students for asking questions, handling duties, and the like. A common way to do this is to pull notecards or popsicle sticks with students’ names on them to ensure that every student gets a turn. Alternatively, smartphone apps are also available for the same purpose.
- Remember that you are in control of the classroom! As long as you respect your students and treat them fairly, they will respect you back.
Technology is a beautiful thing, and its uses in the classroom have been compounding every year. We even listed one in the section above for picking names! Now, you can use technology for anything from replacing your whiteboard to administering quizzes. And in many schools now, students are given tablets or computers to use, as well.
As education becomes more and more tech-driven, it’s important that teachers stay up-to-date, as well. If you fall behind, not only do you risk losing out on the technological advancements that can make teaching more manageable, but you also might not catch the advancements that make cheating easier.
Whether we like it or not, students can look up the answers to virtually anything online. In order to inspire real learning in your students, not just looking up answers to questions with the help of Google or an app, teachers need to get a bit creative.
However, it’s essential not to be fearful of technology in the classroom. Even if a teacher decides to ban technology from being used in class, if a student wants to cheat their way through it, they will still do so at home when they have full access to the internet. It’s better to proactively embrace technology instead and help your students learn in new ways.
Take some of the new and exciting examples of tech immersion in the classroom that we’ve provided below.
- A classroom website to connect teachers, parents, and students together (and allow parents to keep an eye on students’ grades)
- Digital note-taking tools that help cut down on paper use, keep notes organized, and let students share notes easily
- Online portfolios for students of all kinds, especially art and writing students, which are easier to access, share, view, and maintain
- Dropboxes for turn ins of various homework assignments
- Online quizzes like Kahoot and Quizlet (just be careful that the answers to your tests and quizzes are not posted online for other students)
- Video conferencing for further connection with parents or sick students
Being mindful is an important part of improving as a general person, but it can be incorporated to great effect in the workplace, too. Being mindful means to be “in the moment” and deeply aware of what you’re doing in the present. If you’re teaching students, take a moment of any day to think about how you feel, how your students feel, and what you’re doing, rather than focusing on only what you need to do.
Teachers, in particular, are incredibly prone to falling into expectations of how they want things to be, rather than accepting that things do not often follow a set plan. This can be countered by cultivating mindfulness. Rather than getting upset or angry when it seems like the lesson plans you worked so hard on will not work, take it as a sign to go with the flow and live in the moment.
Not all teachers will be capable of doing the above. However, being mindful of what your students need on a day-to-day basis is a far superior teaching approach than expecting them to follow a rigid, unchanging schedule. Every class of students is different, and a plan that worked for years may suddenly not be appropriate for the next class that comes along.
This is part of the nature of being a teacher: you will need to change as technology changes, as new things are discovered, and as your students themselves change. Being mindful and aware of how these things change will not only lead to a less-stressed you, but happier, healthier students, as well. We’ve included a list of the most important things to be mindful of below.
- Mindfulness helps with understanding behavior – both your students’ and yours.
- Mindfulness can help you communicate more effectively. Pay attention to how you talk in the moment. Your inflections or word choices may be saying more to your students than you think.
- Mindfulness helps with understanding your students. This applies to both good and bad students. Pay attention to good and bad behaviors and do your best to figure out the reasons behind each one, and use this knowledge to better relate to your students.
- Mindfulness helps you slow down. You may want to run on autopilot when you’ve had a rough day and just want to go home, but as a teacher, you have an obligation to the students you teach. Use mindfulness to slow yourself down in the moment, take stock of what’s around you, and keep yourself from rushing through the day and leaving students behind.
Parents should always be involved in their children’s teaching. It’s the parent’s responsibility to reinforce the importance of studying and working at home, as well as fortifying other good behaviors that the child is expected to learn. However, how good parents are at doing this can vary greatly. Some people just don’t make good parents or are too busy or negligent to address their child’s needs.
As a teacher, there will be some situations between children and parents that you just cannot resolve. However, it should be your goal to include parents in discussions of the child whenever possible. With how much technology has progressed in recent years, it’s no longer difficult to set up a time with a parent to talk about the child – often, a video conference is more than enough.
You will not be able to replace a parent’s lack of care for a child in the classroom. Unfortunately, this is one of the problems you will come across as a teacher that you can do nothing about. It’s also not a good idea to fall into the temptation of trying to do so. However, we do recommend offering what support to the student you can.
Connecting with your students is always a good idea. In younger grade levels, this can only be done in a limited capacity, especially since you will need to maintain impartiality between students. However, in high school and college levels, you can quite effectively connect with your students, and they won’t be afraid to come to you with questions or feedback. Older students can give you some incredible insight if you take the time to ask!
Connecting with your students has a variety of benefits, among them being increased understanding when a student is having issues. If you’ve noticed that a student’s academic performance has fallen suddenly, the cause could very well be an issue at home.
As a teacher, the things you can do about this are limited, but merely asking the student what’s going on can put their mind at ease, and having insight into the issue can help you decide how to treat it going forward.
Studies have even shown that when a student feels connected to his or her teacher, their academic performance can improve. When fostering friendship between a teacher and student, there is a fine line that must be walked. The teacher is unable to show partiality toward the student, and the student should not learn to expect special treatment from the teacher.
However, when a professional friendship is achieved between student and teacher, the results speak for themselves. Classroom environments are more fun, less stressful, and more respectful than their counterparts when teachers and students are friends.
Staying relevant is another challenge that’s faced by many teachers today. While this often has to do with technology, the two aren’t mutually inclusive. Sometimes, new teaching practices, research, and findings can put old teaching methods on the shelf just as well as emerging technology can.
One of the great things about being a teacher is the ability to recycle teaching materials from year to year, making your job much easier. However, this isn’t necessarily the right thing to do for your students, even if it is for you. Repurposing material is ideal and wonderful, but reusing the exact same material year in and year out is lazy and ignorant.
Just as the wealth of all human knowledge changes from year to year, your teaching strategies should also change. Just as your students change every year, your assignments and lesson plans will also need to change. In order to be an effective teacher, you should be looking to learn and grow as much as your students do. If you don’t, you will be left behind, just as a lazy student would.
Reusing the same lesson plans and materials for a year or two might not seem to have much impact. In fact, in most cases, you can probably get by without much in the way of repercussions. However, there are many consequences that you face when you don’t keep your teaching materials up-to-date in the current age.
- Cheating is a massive problem in our age of technology. Students can find the answers to virtually anything if they have access to the internet. Whole worksheets, tests, and quizzes can even be posted on the internet for subsequent years of students to find.
- If you don’t refresh your lessons, you may end up teaching your students outdated information. Just as school textbooks become obsolete after several years and need updating, your lessons do, too.
- If your students don’t feel like they’re learning correct information from you, one or more of them will realize this. You will lose respect from your students if they find that you’re being lazy in your lessons.
- While many schools are slow to embrace new technology, this doesn’t mean you need to be reluctant to embrace it in your classroom. If you have the drive and the means to include new games, services, and programs in your lessons, do it! Younger people tend to be more tech-savvy as a rule, and they will appreciate the access to emerging technology.
Board certification is not required as a teacher. Essentially, certification is like a medal; it shows you’ve achieved something spectacular, but it doesn’t function as much more than a decoration. Why, then, do people do it? People do it because it’s one of the best things you can do to improve your teaching skills, test yourself, and show you where you’re not good enough.
Getting board certified as an NBCT (National Board-Certified Teacher) is a grueling and expensive process, and it takes years. It’s not an easy thing to do, nor is it for the faint of heart. On top of that, only about forty percent of applicants end up becoming board certified.
However, the benefits of becoming board certified are numerous. Even rejection can teach you new, useful things about your teaching style.
- Board-certified teachers just get better results, plain and simple.
- The certification process forces you to think through every aspect of your teaching style and examine it for where it’s lacking.
- The process teaches you why it’s essential to teach your students in the best possible way.
- Certification will not make you a perfect teacher, but it will equip you better to handle stumbling blocks and issues.
If you’re a teacher who’s genuinely passionate about their students’ learning, then it may be a good idea to look into certification. The process will open your eyes to the potential that is out there for being a truly great educator. Though it’s difficult, it’s a fight that’s undeniably worth fighting.
What Do You Want?
What do YOU want to do as a teacher to improve your classroom setting? The former will be an important question for you to think about going forward. What goals do you have for your classroom? Perhaps you wish for more respect from your students? Maybe your goal is to incorporate more technology into the classroom this year?
Whatever your feelings are, make sure to turn them into productive, intelligent goals and improve your classroom experience in the future. As a teacher, you have the opportunity to think about your experiences every year and change how things are for the next one. To get the most out of your career (and your students!), use this to maximize your abilities and your students’ potential going forward.