I’m a list maker and self-help addict from back in the day, so it isn’t surprising that New Year’s resolutions have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Last year, however, I realized that what I really wanted was not to have the same resolutions year after year. What if “eat healthy” and “keep the house clean” weren’t on the list? What amazing new goals could I have (and hopefully achieve)?
So, this year I decided to do something different. My friend, Laura, told me about something called #OneWord, a movement promoted by Jon Gordon, an inspirational writer who credits Dan Britton and Jimmy Page, co-authors of Wisdom Walks, with the concept. Instead of setting a series of unrelated goals, you choose a word that will inform all of your decisions and plans. She told me that last year her word was “joy,” her middle school daughter’s was “determination,” and her youngest son’s was “courage.” At first I thought this seemed too broad. So, I did an experiment.
Last week, I chose a word to focus on all week in all areas of my life. The word was “dare.” Surprisingly, when I kept this word in the back of my mind, I decided to make something different for dinner, submit a proposal to present at a conference that is probably way out of my league, and “dared’ to invite an acquaintance and her husband out to double date. None of these decisions, in and of themselves, is monumental, but I distinctly felt that I was moving closer to what I wanted.
How does this translate to my classroom? Tomorrow, I plan to work with my students on setting goals, and though I am going to ask them to look at several aspects of their lives—academic, physical, relationships and personal—I actually am going to move them toward some higher-order thinking about their goals. I’m going to ask them to look for the underlying theme to find their #OneWord. Most of them, I think, are going to find that this is a bit challenging, but also attainable. Unlike myself, most of my students probably don’t have a long history of fizzled New Year’s resolutions, but I think goal-setting probably can be more realistic than what I have done in the past—at least I hope so!
I plan to start the week with a broad overview of goals and goal-setting. This part is challenging to me because I am so goal oriented that I have to remember my middle level students have most likely been achieving goals that other people have set for them, not ones they have chosen for themselves. A PowerPoint called “The Importance of Goals” is thorough and gives excellent real-life examples students will relate to and want to imitate. It is a bit lengthy, particularly for middle school students, so I am going to make some adjustments. As an aside, that is the No. 1 thing I love about using Share My Lesson resources: Teachers are willing to share amazing lessons, but there is always room for innovation and necessary adjustments to meet our individual student needs.
If the personal nature of goal-setting is not compatible with the needs of your class, or if you simply prefer to have students look outward, Oxfam’s “Millennium Goals” is what you are looking for. Oxfam’s mission is “to work with teachers and schools to empower young people to make a positive difference in the world.” The organization offers a “range of ideas, resources and support for developing active global citizenship in the classroom and the whole school.” This lesson gives students an opportunity to find ways to be a “life changer,” which is pretty impressive if you think about it. Teaching students that they have power is the quickest way to propel them toward their highest potential.
In the end, even if you don’t spend days making plans and setting goals with your students, it would be a really great warm-up or welcome-back activity to have students start thinking about what they want to achieve. Perhaps, in the interest of class culture, you can adopt #OneWord as a mantra for your class: perseverance, diligence, determination, persuasion—and the list goes on, depending on you, your students and your subject area. So many times, when we think about what we learned in school, we come back to a teacher who inspired us to learn a lesson about ourselves, not simply the lessons in the plan book. And, in the spirit of my #OneWord: I DARE you to give it a try!