Goals For Success At School

by Penny on October 13, 2010 · 2 comments

View DetailsSome parents have already had their parent-teacher conferences, others have them coming up in the next week or two. Given that we are already six weeks in to the school year, the information that you gather from these conferences might be useful in helping you help your child set some goals for the rest of the semester, or even the school year in full.  What does your child want to accomplish this year?  What do you want your child to accomplish this year? Over the past 20 years, I’ve helped students set goals as they maneuver through the elementary-, middle-, and high-school maze.  Here are some tips that have proved helpful for kids of all ages and their parents.

Work as a family.  Develop the goals together, encourage him to involve a trusted teacher or mentor, but remember the goals are ultimately his.  Help him to understand the best goals, the ones that result in real feelings of accomplishment, are the ones that require a bit of a stretch; improving a grade from a C to a B yes, moving from and 86% to an 88% not so much.  Talk over general ideas – an improved algebra grade, better study habits, mastering clarinet in band class, making sports editor for the school paper – and help him set priorities, but let him make the final decisions. Encourage him to set goals that are not simply school related. Setting his own goals increases his motivation and self-sufficiency.  This teaches independence.

 Keep the goals simple, clear, and easy to understand.  For young children, short-term goals are the best because they’re, well, short and result in higher rates of achievement.   Daily goals are the best – “What shall we do today in the park?”  “What book shall we check out of the library?”  “Let’s see if we can work on printing for 10 minutes” Older kids in late elementary and middle school can be introduced to longer-term goals.  This teaches planning.

 Remember goals can change.  As a matter of fact, sometimes they should change.  Often we change our minds as we mature, learn additional facts and skills, or see a better course of action.  Children discover new talents and interests all the time, which cause them to change their goals. Try to make her understand that this is different from ‘giving up’ or quitting something because the goal is difficult or requires effort. Changing goals and directions is part of life. This teaches flexibility.

 Break goals into small steps.  Just like you’ve taught her to do with important assignments.  It’s much easier to achieve small, reachable goals than to face a seemingly insurmountable task.  “I’ll read chapter one today, and by Friday, I’ll complete the first three chapters” is easier to reach than “I’ll read the whole book one of these days.”  “I’ll complete the research for my project this weekend”, rather than “”I have to write a 10 page research paper for tomorrow.” This teaches organization.

 Celebrate each completed step toward the goal.  Kids love to earn our recognition and congratulations.  A hearty “Well done!” accompanied by a high-five goes a long way.  Kids are motivated by the praise almost as much as the feeling of accomplishment. (They can also spot an empty, unearned compliment a mile away, so be judicious in your praise.)  Some alone time with you, without siblings, choosing what to have for dinner tomorrow, being allowed 10 extra minutes at bedtime, can be just the motivation to keep going. This teaches persistence.

 Monitor progress regularly.  Check up on the younger kids frequently, and let the older ones know you’re aware of their goals and deadlines.  Ask about grades and projects, post a central calendar with deadlines on it, have a weekly or bi-weekly powwow about how well he’s doing in meeting his goals. Adjust your monitoring as they show they need more or less of you checking up on them.  This teaches concentration.

 Write the goals down.  Be specific, otherwise they’re just wishes.  Help your child to create a game plan or an outline that will lead to her accomplishing her goal.  How long will it take?  What resources will she need?  Who can help?  When will she start? When will she finish? How will she evaluate her success? Good intentions need to become actions. This teaches attention to detail.

 Anticipate setbacks.  They happen.  It’s okay – in fact, it’s human – to make mistakes.  Sometimes we give ourselves too little time to reach a goal. Sometimes we set a goal that is unrealistic.  Or we’re not able to foresee every circumstance.  Or something out of our control throws us off track.  The key is to learn from our mistakes.  This teaches perspective.

 Show how you set goals.  Let them see that you ask advice, weigh pros and cons, occasionally change your mind, and keep yourself focused as you work on your goals. It is important that your kids see you work at something that takes persistence, effort, stamina and, well, work! Involve kids in appropriate family goals – like cutting back on treats to save for a family vacation.  Be a role model.  This teaches family cohesion.

 Stay focused.  Help your child to keep her eye on the proverbial ball.  Have someone who can help, a study buddy, a mentor, an admired friend.  Show how athletes, for instance, fix a goal in their mind and then aim wholeheartedly for it.  Michael Phelps and his famous determination come to mind. Phelps didn’t win 8 gold medals in Beijing without focus, determination and a lot of effort over a long period of time. Sustaining focus to reach that ‘A’ or ‘B’ grade might mean months of work, not simply weeks. This teaches concentration.

Setting goals and determining the plans of action needed to achieve them are among the most important school skills students can have.  As parents it’s never too early to show kids how to manage their learning and feel the confidence that comes with accomplishment.

 I’d love to hear your comments, ideas, and success stories – let me know what you think! If you have any education related questions, let me know. I’d be happy to answer them, and if I don’t have an answer maybe another parent or teacher can chime in!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

human hair weft October 15, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Great post! Setting the goals that needs to be pursued, is the best way to become successful at school.

Penny October 16, 2010 at 5:59 pm

And I might add, a great idea for adults too! If your kids see you setting and working towards goals, goal setting will have more meaning for them 🙂

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