Setting Your Own Professional Goals

As a new teacher, you will probably be expected to establish goals that will allow you to reach certain benchmarks set by your state or school district. While those goals can be helpful as you learn to be an effective teacher, specific professional goals that you set for yourself tend to be more meaningful because they add intentionality to your practice as well as allow you to self-assess and reflect on how you can grow as an educator. Setting your own professional goals will give you direction as you begin to focus on the larger issues involved in developing into an effective educator and will also allow you to focus on improving specific areas of your teaching performance that are not as strong as you would like.

As a classroom teacher, I set goals for myself every year. I usually chose three areas in my teaching performance that I thought needed improvement and focused diligently on improving those areas. I began the process by reflecting on the areas I knew I needed to work on to improve my teaching. Then, I wrote out my goals and put them where I could see them during the school day—taped to my desk, jotted on my calendar, and inserted into the front of my plan book.

For example, when I was a novice teacher, one of my goals was to improve the way I handled class discussions. I spent time thinking about what was happening when my students were holding a discussion. I also observed other teachers who were kind enough to allow me to watch their class discussions. As a beginning teacher, this action research required me to reflect on what my students were doing, what I really wanted them to do, and what I could do to improve the way I managed class discussions. The focus provided by such a personal goal was invaluable. Because I was focused on the various ways I could improve the way I managed this instructional activity, I gradually learned how to conduct meaningful class discussions. As my skill level improved, my sense of accomplishment added to my confidence—a definite benefit for a teacher who wanted to become an effective classroom leader.

As a new teacher, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by how much you have to learn and do during your first year. In fact, you may feel that you have so much to do that setting goals seems to be just another chore. While it is certainly understandable that you may feel overwhelmed at the start of your career, setting two or three specific goals will make it easier for you to focus on improving your practice rather than just making it through each day. The benefits of such a proactive activity are worth the effort.

To make it easier to decide on your goals, you may want to think about some of the competencies appropriate for first-year teachers in the list below. As you read through the list, if you find an area you would like to improve in your own teaching practice, consider using it to create your own professional goal.

First-year teachers should be able to:

  1. _____ Engage students in student-centered learning activities.
  2. _____ Use students’ prior knowledge and preferred learning styles to differentiate.
  3. _____ Set up and organize a classroom for maximum student achievement.
  4. _____ Collaborate effectively with colleagues and parents or guardians.
  5. _____ Manage school-related stress with appropriate strategies.
  6. _____ Work effectively with students from diverse cultures.
  7. _____ Teach students with various types of special needs.   
  8. _____ Provide meaningful feedback to students and their parents or guardians. 
  9. _____ Plan lessons that align to state standards and district curriculum guidelines.
  10. _____ Use data from formative assessments to inform instruction.
  11. _____ Adopt a problem-solving approach to resolve issues of concern.
  12. _____ Appropriately assess student mastery of the material. 
  13. _____ Prevent almost all discipline problems from occurring.
  14. _____ Use appropriate strategies when discipline problems do occur.
  15. _____ Integrate available technology into instruction when appropriate.   

Experienced teachers also know that it’s important to set SMART goals (goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely) because they are easier to achieve than vague ones. An example of a SMART goal involving class discussions would be: “By Nov. 30, my students will prepare for and participate in a 15-minute class discussion without interrupting each other or otherwise being off task.”

A final benefit of setting your own professional goals is that that you will be taking a proactive stance in dealing with some of the problems you may experience during the school day. Instead of simply coping with a problem, taking charge of the situation by setting a goal that can eventually lead to a resolution will give you a sense of empowerment and accomplishment.