Advice For New Teachers: Goals

Adding my (late) contribution to Letters to a First Year Teacher

To a new teacher,

As you plan for your first year, my advice to you is to have concrete goals — and very few of them.

Some of us began our first year with goals such as:

  • All of my students will love math!
  • My students will be excited, engaged, and enthralled every moment of every class period.

These are neither concrete nor realistic goals for a first year teacher. Going into my sixth year, I’m not sure if they are realistic goals for any teacher.

Not all of your students will walk in the door loving math. Nor will they leave with this love. This is okay. Hopefully some will learn to love it, some will learn to enjoy part of the process and the rest will learn that even if they don’t enjoy math, they can be good at it.

Engagement is a good goal. As is excitement. Every moment? Not so much. Planning effective lessons is hard. Really hard. The only way to this is to write, implement, reflect, revise (and sometimes the reflection leads you to simply scrap and start over again), then repeat.  You probably will not be very good at this your first year. You will have moments of good.  Examine those moments. Figure out what made them work and how you can build upon them.

Aside from not having lofty goals, don’t set too many goals. Do not tell yourself I’m going to … implement Standards Based Grading, write and use entrance and exit slips every day, write all of my curriculum from scratch, have my students journal about math, flip my classroom and make videos for every prep, ….

You’ll never be able to do it all let alone do it well. You will be exhausted (not that that won’t happen anyway). You will feel like a failure. Do not set yourself up for this.

Pick one or two or three things to focus upon doing well. Write down your goals. Decide in advance how you’ll know if your goal is met. Write this down too. Be willing to revise this. Throughout the year, reflect upon your progress. If necessary, revise your plan for meeting your goal.

Once you’ve written down your goals and the way in which you will measure your success in meeting them, figure out why these things are important enough to be your goals for the year. Knowing why you value them enough to implement them is important. Implementing something in your classroom because “everyone else” is doing it is not a good reason. Your goals should have meaning for you (and of course, your students).

So this summer, reflect, ponder, plan, and recharge. Start the school year refreshed with your goals in mind.

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4 Responses to Advice For New Teachers: Goals

  1. Great advice. Very enthusiastic teachers often burn themselves trying to do it all. Teaching is a job that takes over your life particularly that first year. Every lesson doesn’t have to be outstanding.

  2. great advice! last year was my third year teaching and i nearly killed myself with all the changes i made in my classroom. lesson learned the hard way. i’m adding your entry to the list as I speak…

  3. Pingback: Letters to a First Year Teacher: The Compilation « Bowman in Arabia

  4. I love this post. The issues you address in here are at the heart of why I created the “Disillusionment Power Pack,” a free, one-month series of emails for new teachers during this time of year. Here is the link if you’d like to check it out, and I’d love to hear any thoughts you may have.

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