As classroom teachers, we’re constantly learning and setting goals for ourselves. Unfortunately, just setting a few superficial goals isn’t enough to take us from where we currently are to the level of effective teachers we might want to be.
Goal setting requires you to dig deep into what you hope to accomplish, why you want to achieve it, and how you plan to make it happen.
Maybe you’re a brand new teacher just beginning your teaching career and you want to set yourself up for success or maybe you’re one of the many experienced teachers with a lot of years in the classroom and you want to make an even bigger impact on the kids in your class.
Either way it’s essential to reflect on the direction you’re headed because the truth is, the amount of time you’ve been in the classroom is irrelevant to the career goals you set for yourself.
But that brings us to a series of interesting questions as we think about setting professional goals for teachers…
- What if you don’t intend to continue teaching until you retire?
- Do you still need to create professional goals for yourself?
- What if you are on the fence about leaving the classroom?
Here’s the truth; teaching is hard. Discussions about how difficult teaching has become flood social media daily, and teachers everywhere are questioning whether or not they want to continue down this path.
But whether you intend to leave the classroom at the end of this school year, five years from now, or never, you need to take a step back and determine new ways to connect with the students who are currently in your classroom.
So, we’re going to look at a professional growth plan that will help you make strides in setting and crushing your professional goals inside the classroom, apply this same approach to your personal goals outside of the classroom, and how to move forward from this point.
Professional Goals for Teachers
As I’ve mentioned before on the podcast, I am a fan of smart goals because they allow you the opportunity to create tangible and concrete action steps that help you achieve all of your goals from professional development goals to personal goals.
But having the necessary skills to become better is only as effective as your plan for achieving those top goals. This may not sound like good news, but it actually is because we’re going to discuss some professional goals for teachers that directly relate to who you want to be in the classroom and design a plan for how to get you there.
My Secret Weapon
My greatest secret weapon for achieving my goals has been to identify and remove any roadblocks that could deter me. And without question, the biggest stumbling block I’ve encountered on my journey is lack of motivation because there are just times we don’t want to complete a task.
So, one of the best ways I’ve found to overcome this obstacle and get motivated when I really don’t want to do something is using a timer.
This may sound completely ridiculous, but I can tell you for a fact, it works. When I have to do something I’m dreading, I set my timer for 30 minutes. I know I can do even the most loathsome task for 30 minutes because once I’m done, I’m done…at least for today.
But here’s interesting part…I’ve found that most of my mental blocks come from not wanting to begin. So, when I get past starting and simply muscle through that initial 30 minutes, I’m in a good flow which means I want to continue working.
That’s the positive impact of the timer.
And even in a worst case scenario, if I determine that 30 minutes is all I can devote to the task (for whatever reason), I’m still ahead of the game.
But let me share one final word of caution. I do NOT use the timer on phone because it can be much more of a hindrance than a useful tool.
Think about it, when you go to set the timer on your phone, you immediately notice you missed a call and you have 2 new text messages. So, you figure since you already have your phone out, you might as well handle these.
By the time you’re done, you’ve forgotten why you went to your phone in the first place and you figure you will check your Instagram super-quick.
Basically, at the end of an hour or two, you realize you never actually did the original thing you intended to do. And the vicious cycle goes on and on.
To combat this, I bought this cube timer. I leave it sitting on my desk all the time so I am reminded to use it.
I know this may seem like a Jedi mind trick or a juvenile attempt at coercion, but I can promise you it works for me and this same tip has helped many of my coaching clients! Knowing I can set that timer for 30 minutes and then walk away from the task feeling accomplished has helped me tremendously.
Professional Goals for Teachers Inside the Classroom
As a teacher, you have meaningful ways of connecting with your students. But no matter how amazing we are, there is always room for improvement! So as we dive into each of these professional goals for teachers, I want you to think about how you can apply this to your life and ultimately, tweak it to fit your own teaching practice.
Many school districts have very specific rules for how teachers write, submit, and ultimately, carry out lesson plans. So the first step in creating a strategy for your lesson planning is understanding the position your school district takes in this particular area.
Once you know the requirements you need to follow, you can think about the most effective way to achieve this end result.
If you need to have lesson plans submitted one or two weeks ahead, consider batching out your lesson plans. This batching session allows you to work smarter, not harder. Think about the best way you might achieve the desired outcome for each particular lesson and then set a timer to force yourself to start.
Be sure to set yourself up for success by considering…
- how far in advance you need to plan,
- what subject area(s) you need to have prepared,
- what information (student objectives, standards, curricula) and tools (lesson planner, computer, pens/pencils) you will need to have on hand create those plans
- when you will have ample time to accomplish the task,
- where you need to work on this particular task
Identifying each of these particular parts of your process (and any potential roadblocks that might keep you from completing the task) will allow you to figure out exactly how long the whole process is going to take.
It will also be a good time to document anything you notice that you can possibly streamline for the next batching session since you will be repeating this same process every few days, weeks, or months.
Classroom management is a unique area because it isn’t about having a room full of stoic robot children who do and say exactly what you want, when you want it. (Although for the record, it wouldn’t be terrible to occasionally have this happen.) So this is another area where we can set meaningful professional goals for teachers.
Each new school year, we meet a classroom full of students we will have the unique privilege to teach and come alongside in the learning process. But it’s essential that we use our highly developed communication skills to teach our students about our expectations, specific classroom procedures, and the importance of becoming community members.
Building a positive relationship with each student involves mutual respect and personal buy in.
For this to take place, our students have to believe and see that…
- new ideas are encouraged and different opinions are welcomed,
- the classroom is a positive learning environment where everyone feels physically and psychologically safe, and
- hard work produces positive outcomes that will be pivotal to the significant improvements they can make in their learning and lives.
Trust me when I tell you this is a tall order!
You’re going to have to assume the leadership role and exemplify what this looks like to your students. And this isn’t always going to be easy because it may require you to share vulnerable parts of yourself that you don’t want to share with your students.
Now make sure you hear me clearly, this is not an invitation to dump your personal problems on your students or get validation of your worth from them.
This is simply an exercise in humility and showing them the result of being honest as you lead by example. And while your general teaching style will reflect you, it also needs to be directly reflective of the students in your classroom. You can…
- talk about how you have chosen lifelong learning and how you are continuing on a path of career development,
- share some of your long-term goals whether those are personal life goals or directly related to your career as a teacher.
Sharing these snippets of your life with them as well as specific goals you have for yourself will allow your students to see firsthand that you view them as trustworthy, or you wouldn’t share this information.
Treating your students as worthy recipients of information about you helps them realize how important it is to treat one another with the same kindness and respect. And this is the most valuable skill you can teach that will pay dividends in the classroom management department.
At any point in history, there are unique best practices according to the teachers of the day. What was acceptable and viewed as appropriate in the 1950s is outdated now that we are in the year 2022. But it’s essential that you develop a classroom practice that aligns with your students’ learning styles and needs.
You want to always be learning and growing as an educator whether it’s from online groups, a professional development seminar, or another teacher with national board certification. The key is being teachable yourself.
If you are willing to be open-minded and seek a better way to do things, you will be able to help your students see the value in this practice. And it’s highly possible that this will inspire other staff members or maybe even a newer teacher to follow your lead.
Each new year will bring student teachers wanting to learn how to teach best practices. They will want to see…
- what it is that makes your classroom different,
- how you inspire even the most hesitant learners through classroom activities, and
- how you focus on student learning while still teaching the standards daily.
So being able to share how you encourage student engagement, respect, and enthusiasm for learning will make the difference in your classroom as well as the classrooms of future generations.
Professional Goals for Teachers Outside the Classroom
While all of the professional goals for teachers I’ve already mentioned were directly related to your classroom environment and your attitude toward teaching, the next general goals I want to discuss are related to your life outside the four walls of your classroom.
I know you probably get tired of hearing this phrase, but it is such an important part of being an effective teacher. So much of our job involves leading by example and being a role model for our students. That’s why it just makes sense that we should be lifelong learners, too.
Whether it’s obtaining additional teaching certificates, learning creative ways to organize the clutter in your home, increasing your computer aptitude and skill level, or discovering a great way to meal prep, lifelong learning is about trying something new.
The cool thing is that these things we choose to pursue can be as diverse, simple, or complex as we want them to be. We can dig into various interests and passions as well as pursue something new just to see if it might be enjoyable.
Leaving the Classroom
While this may not be one you’ve considered, understanding where you fall on the spectrum of leaving the classroom to pursue other career ventures is important.
Maybe you have no intention of leaving, that’s ok! In fact it’s better than ok…it’s awesome because we need amazing teachers training up the next generation.
However, if you’ve spent more than a few minutes contemplating what it would be like to do something outside of the classroom, you need to decide if this is going to be an important goal you choose to pursue.
Start by asking yourself two very specific questions…
- Do I genuinely want to leave the classroom at some point?
- When do I want to leave?
Honest answers to these questions will provide the information you need to know as you move forward. This will also give you clarity about what kinds of things you need to be working towards in order to achieve this end result.
The last area we’re going to talk about in regard to professional goals outside the classroom is the area of interpersonal skills. We all spend a significant amount of time building relationships with our students, but it’s just as important that we take that relationship knowledge and apply it to those outside of the classroom.
Most of us don’t really spend much time cultivating relationships outside of those with our spouses and kids. And even those can go by the wayside at times.
So as you think about goals you want to set for yourself, consider reading…
Each of these books is a helpful way to understand other people (and exactly what makes them tick) and grow your interpersonal skills.
The truth is that creating a list of goals can be a great starting point, but having 20 lists doesn’t always provide indicators of success. It’s essential that we consider which areas of our lives we want to work on whether it’s developing a plan for when a new student joins our class, how to incorporate social studies into other subjects, or how to have more powerful impact on those around us.
Now is a great time to make these goals a reality. In fact, I would go so far as to say that now is the ideal time to dig into what you really want. You have influence over those around you and now is the time to crush those goals!