Sunday, October 25, 2009

My Problem With Goals

My problem with goals is not the goal itself, but the premise that unless I state my goal, as a goal, I don't have one. I've been giving this issue a lot of thought and that is definitely not the case with me.

My ninth period class is a four term algebra class. These are kids that have already been through summer school and they are more surprised by a passing grade than a failing one. With few exceptions, they do not like school and like math less than any other subject they take. My unwritten goal for this class is to find a way to reach them and this is something I work towards every single day.

Like the hockey player trying to score, I practice. I try different strategies some work, some don't. Even the ones that work today might not work tomorrow and will probably not work next week. Like the hockey player, I am always trying to redefine my play to be able to score the goal that will win the game. Unlike the hockey player, there is no Stanley Cup possibility in my future, there is just the knowledge that I succeeded with my students and that is enough for me.

Now, back to this whole idea of goals. Almost every teacher I know feels the same as I do. We strive every day to do the best we can for our students. It is demeaning to be told we need to speak to a supervisor to explain these goals. Any teacher who does not feel as I do is probably not a very good teacher and should not be in a classroom. Writing a goal on a sheet of paper or discussing this goal with a supervisor is not going to change who this person is as a teacher. Some of the worst teachers around are probably some of the best goal setters, so what is the point? Why all of a sudden, after all these years is writing a goal so important? Can anyone really believe this one little word will change anything?

When the student does not succeed, the teacher's goals, or lack of goals can be held accountable. This is just another way to blame the teacher for all the ills of education.


Ricochet said...

My goal is that they see math in the context of their whole lives. And that, if they understand it a bit more, math won't be as frightening for them.

My goal is to survive the year with as much sanity as I entered with - and more of a sense of humor.

My goal is to get better at reaching them.

My goal is share strategies that work with other teachers.

My goal is to blog positively more and bitch less. (OK, that one won't be reached!!)

LSquared32 said...

Think of it as marketing. Supervisors need commercials to inform them of what is desirable in the teachers around them. Your goals are your commercials. Now, being a math teacher, you probably feel this is a hideous thought, and something you want nothing to do with, but I find the analogy provides a little insight. I can't imagine writing down or discussing with a supervisor any really worthwhile goal: it would freeze the goal for me and make it less enticing to work on. But from the supervisor's point of view, if they don't have something written down, they can't pretend to their supervisors that they know what's going on.

Barbara K said...

This is why I never turn in goals based on student achievement. I am lucky that I have the freedom to write goals which depend on what I do. A good friend of mine said, "Always chose things that you are already doing" as professional goals. That advice has served me well.