Sunday, 20 July 2014

The mystery of professional goal setting

After two weeks of professional development, both formal and informal, I have a serious need to re-focus. I am going to Great Barrier Island for five weeks at the beginning of Week 4 and I need to clarify what I want to have achieved by the end of this year. When I get back to normality, Term 3 will be all but over!
Sure I have my professional development goals that we develop as part of our professional learning at my school, but I'm talking about those very personal, career focused goals that are specific to your own unique trajectory.
I talk to my students a lot about SMART goals and get them to write their own. I often demonstrate how to write these goals. But I've never truly modeled this skill by sharing my goal setting with them. That's because I don't walk the walk - I very rarely articulate my goals in a formal manner. I write to-do lists and I make progress in my professional life, but I am really starting to feel that it's all a bit helter-skelter.

There are a couple of reasons why I don't set goals in this way. The first and most obvious reason is just laziness - who can be bothered? As I said before, I get (most) stuff done anyway, so why bother? 
The second reason is a little less comfortable: who likes failure? If I articulate a goal, especially a SMART one, what happens if I don't achieve it? Time to do away with that kind of thinking, conscious or otherwise. 
The last reason I've been pondering on is one that I suspect many of us share, so I'd be interested to hear your thoughts. I have a theory that not setting goals in a committed fashion is a very Kiwi thing to do. To commit to goals and 'declare' them, if you will, is to communicate the assumption that you will achieve these goals. It's a bit tall-poppy-ish. I mean, I don't want people to think I'm precocious or an upstart! (Oh wait, too late...) So it's time to do away with that kind of thinking, too. Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe me he maunga teitei - there's a reason I include this at the end of every blog post.

And this is why I used the word 'mystery' in the title of this post. Professional goal setting is a bit mysterious because (if we do formally set goals) we often write them on our own or in consultation with one mentor and we aren't in the habit of announcing these goals for all to see. It's time that we did. It's time that we shared our goals, both realistic and lofty. Think of the conversations that could be sparked, the professional development that colleagues might be prompted to engage in. Imagine if everyone at your school had a series of goals that were public and celebrated, from the beginning teacher through to your principal. Don't you want to know your principal's goals? Your head of department's? It's time to do away with the mystery!

On that note, below are the four goals that I have clarified today. I have just started using a to-do list app which will see each goal broken down into tasks and mile-stones. The process of my first and most time-consuming goal, to apply for an eFellowship, will enable me to determine my overall professional development goal, my current 'mission statement' if you will, which is what this goal setting is all about. What's important for me to remember is that I have not chiseled this in stone. I might read the application for the eFellowship and decide that next year is a better time for me to apply. I might add more goals or tweak the ones I currently have, and that's not cheating. It's ensuring that goals remain achievable and relevant.

1.   By September 8th I will have applied for the 2015 eFellowship through CORE Ed in order to ‘inspire transformational educational practice through inquiry’

·   Apply for eFellowship
·   Application can be found at CORE Ed's website
·   Specific milestones created and tracked through Todoist
·   Six weeks until due date, 3 of which will be spent on GBI
·   Support will be sought from HL, GU, HS, NO, RFO, AP
·   Will encourage me to focus my professional development
·   Due 8th September
2.   Write a blog entry minimum of once a week (excluding summer break) in support of Registered Teacher Criteria

·      Weekly blog post
·      Review at end of year by looking at frequency of posts
·      Set as weekly task on Todoist
·      Posts take an average of 1 hour to create
·      Accumulating evidence for registration
·      Encourages reflection
·      Raise professional profile
·      Informs my practice
·      Due end of Term 4
3.    Spend minimum of 1 hour a week reading blog posts/articles/Twitter feed & reflect in writing submitted to blog (excluding summer break)

·      Professional reading
·      Weekly blog review
·      Review at end of year by looking at frequency of posts
·      Set as weekly task on Todoist
·      Contain time spent on professional reading so that it is focused and purposeful
·      Accumulating evidence for registration
·      Encourages reflection
·      Raise professional profile
·      Informs my practice
·      Due end of Term 4
4.    Participate in live Twitter chats

·      #edchatNZ
·      Storify live chats & review own participation
·      Scheduled weekly/bi-weekly at specific times
·      Unable to do while on GBI
·      Accumulating evidence for registration
·      Encourages reflection
·      Raise professional profile
·      Informs my practice
·      Scheduled weekly/bi-weekly at specific times

What are your reactions to my thoughts on goal setting? Are you having a similar experience? Or perhaps this is a strength of yours, your department or your school? If you have held back from sharing your goals, what is it that has stopped you?

Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe me he maunga teitei
Pursue excellence – should you stumble, let it be to a lofty mountain


Jay Coffey said...

I like your goals. They are good goals and achievable. I also understand what you mean about setting goals and the fear of not completing/accomplishing them. It's not just the idea of failure but the idea of not being 'good enough' to complete them. And the fact that we still have a lot of that tall poppy syndrome going around. But your post has inspired me...
I think I will attempt to write down my goals over the next week or so.

Polly Hamilton said...

I think your comment about being 'good enough' is exactly why we should make this more transparent (and also why we don't want to...). You've hit the nail on the head.

If we do make goal setting more transparent we'll have a really good idea of what the people who are 'good enough' are not just aiming for, but also achieving. Tuakana teina.

It's cool that you and I can look at each other's goals, but I'd love to also see the goals of people who are 5/10 years more experienced than us so we can visualise different pathways.

Look forward to hearing about your goals!