January is a great time to reassess student goals and remind kids that they each have unique and individual paths to success. In school, it’s common for teachers to witness students seeming disappointed in themselves and upset about their grades. But if you sit down and talk to your students, you might find that the real problem is they set unrealistic goals. Teaching students how to set reasonable goals for themselves is a valuable skill that they can apply not only to academics, but also to athletics, their social life, and within their families and communities.
In many cases, students think success means being the best at everything. Even if a student knows there are certain subjects and activities that he excels at and others that he tends to struggle with, he might still try to be number one in everything. Encourage such students to focus on lifting a grade (getting a B instead of a C in science) or continuing to do well in a strong area (keeping an A average in math).
It’s hard to tell if a student is reaching her goal if there’s no way to measure it—as such, make sure the goals are not only realistic and specific, but also measurable. If her goal is to ask more questions in class so she gains a clearer understanding of the material, then have her write down questions she has that she didn’t get answers to. Hopefully, over time the questions will decrease, which will show the student that she’s better understanding the topic.
Encourage students to ask themselves which goals are really important to them. If a student is in band and enjoys playing the violin but his real interest is in performing arts, then there’s no reason he should set a goal of winning first chair in the band. Instead, it would be more relevant to set a goal of trying out for the spring musical—and perhaps, for example, practicing the violin a certain number of times each day so he can master the music he’ll play at the end-of-year concert.
Successful student goal-setting doesn’t have to be complicated. With parents’ and teachers’ support, students can learn to set reasonable and attainable goals that, when reached, will raise their confidence in their schoolwork and activities!