School has begun and Summer is finally at our backs. If you’re a leader, however you spent the Summer months—at conferences, attending workshops, reading, relaxing, and so on—we have no doubt that you spent a good deal of time planning for the new school year and setting yearlong goals for your school, as many do.
Now, how many of those same goals did you have last year? The year before?
The process of setting goals is a crucial one. It provides direction and vision by giving everyone around you something bigger than themselves to strive for and it helps to nurture those courageous, growth mindsets that keep us believing in our own abilities to make change. Collective efficacy is, after all, one of the topmost influences in raising student achievement.
Setting goals means very little, though, if you don’t make a plan to accomplish them.
Imagine that you’re going to run a marathon. You train and you prepare your body for weeks and you show up on the day of the race with your friends and family there to cheer you on. You and all of the other runners gather around, preparing to take off, but something is missing: the trail.
Too often, we set goals without an actionable plan to accomplish them, just like that scenario. There is a clear starting point and a clear finish line, but there is no defined path in between. You can imagine how many people would get lost or how quickly the herd could veer off in the wrong direction.
Your goal may not be to finish a marathon, but maybe your goals look like this:
- Raise student achievement
- Accelerate literacy comprehension
- Increase student engagement
- Close the achievement gap
- Inspire teacher collaboration
If you think a few inspiring pep talks or a one-day professional learning workshop are going to set your school down the path to sustainable change, you may want to think again.
ESSA explicitly calls on schools and districts to provide sustained professional development to teachers, rejecting those traditional “stand-alone, 1-day, or short-term workshops.” Effective PD takes time—at least 49 hours—and your teachers need the right tools and experiences to embed their learning in the classroom and start accomplishing those goals.
This year, as the school year begins and you look at that list of goals you’ve made, consider how you’ll get everyone from point A to point B. Maybe it’s with something more like a long-term professional learning program or a resource center your PD facilitators can use to deliver effective PD themselves over time. Only with a clear path set out and with the right tools for success will those goals you’ve set may become goals you’ve accomplished.
Let this be the year you finally check a few things off the list.