January. A fresh start to a new year. A new chapter in life waiting to be written. If you are like many, the new year brings about reflection of the past and thoughts and questions for the future. January is often a time for making resolutions and creating goals to make this year better, or different, than the past.
Growing up, my family had a new year’s tradition called a “resolution cake”. Each member of my family would receive a slip of paper. On it, we would each write a resolution we had for the new year. The slips of paper were then wrapped in plastic wrap and carefully placed inside the cake. I have a distinctive memory of this round, not neatly frosted, cake with all these pieces of paper sticking out of it. At that time, neither my brothers or I put much thought in our resolutions. They always turned into something like “I hope no one gets sick this year.” I think the motivation in creating our resolutions solely revolved around the fact that we’d get a slice of cake after we wrote something down.
Creating attainable, realistic, and productive goals is not an easy task. Just the act of creating a goal can be as difficult as actually achieving it. Children are naturally looking forward to accomplishing the next milestone. “Only 13 more days until I’m 8!”, “I can’t wait to learn how to write in cursive.”or “When I’m 10, I’ll get my first cell phone.”
One of my favorite parts of Hillside Academy is knowing each of my student’s hopes, dreams, and wishes. In addition, I also know their struggles, frustrations, and annoyances. We not only think about goal-setting in January, but we set goals and confidently share them in the beginning of the school year at our student-led, goal setting conferences.
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new” Albert Einstein
One of the newest buzzwords in education is “growth mindset”. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching, and persistence. In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, and their talents are just fixed traits. For most people, especially children, it is difficult to make mistakes and fail at something. Growth mindset people embrace failure as an opportunity to learn and improve their abilities. In our classroom, we use the word “yet” often. Instead of saying “I can’t do this”, we choose to say “I can’t do this yet”. “Students are encouraged to take on a challenging task and struggling is admired. Through self-reflection, we transform these mistakes and challenges into goals and resolutions.
In my 2nd / 3rd grade class, we do several self-evaluations at the beginning and the end of the year. To form our goals, students evaluate themselves on several reading, math, and personal “I-Can” statements. Doing this activity at the beginning of the year helps cultivate classroom community as we realize that no one in our class is perfect at everything. We reflect on our evaluation and select three statements that we indicated we weren’t already great at. I was greatly impressed by the ownership my students took in selecting their personal goals through reflection and look forward to seeing how much they accomplish by the end of the school year!
For more information on growth mindset visit: https://www.mindsetworks.com/science/
For a short article from Parents Magazine on goal setting visit: http://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/style/how-to-teach-kids-perseverance-goal-setting/