Educator’s Lifesaving Tip 2: Goal Setting

Educator’s Lifesaving Tip 2: Goal Setting

SMART Goals– A term that every educator has heard, and most likely multiple times at that. If you are new to education or live under a rock (not judging), SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Every goal should meet these five criteria to be a SMART/good goal.

I remember years ago when I first started teaching, it felt like every meeting was centered around writing SMART goals. We would spend 40 minutes on the wording to make sure it was just right, but miss the purpose of the process of writing these goals in the first place. In this blog I am going to review the purpose of setting goals- whether those are personal or work goals and how to use the SMART goal format.

The Why and How to Setting Goals

In as basic of terms as I can put it– goals can bring a group of people together to develop a long-term mission and give short-term motivation along the way.  When people create goals it is a way to increase their self-confidence as they achieve those goals; either academical or personal. Whether you are creating goals for yourself or as a group it is essentially a three part process.

  1. Define your big picture. This can be curricular for content areas, school wide improvement plans, student academic growth plans, personal fitness plans, developing a positive habit… goals can be applied in infinite situations. Make sure to use the SMART goal format when creating your big picture plan as well as your short term goals.
  2. Next, after you have your picture clearly drawn out, break the picture down into smaller pieces and create targets that are essential to achieving your goal.
  3. Lastly, develop a way to track these small goals and cross them off once you have finished them. This contributes to the motivational aspect of setting goals. I personally like a physical representation such as a chart on a wall that I can check off targets as I accomplish them.


The more specific the goal is, the more likely you are to follow through on it. The S in SMART can also stand for Significant. Your goals should have a significant impact on the overall picture. Tip- it is better to make more small specific goals, than fewer vague goals.


If you write a goal that does not have a way to track or collect data then you cannot measure how you are doing in terms of meeting that goal. In education this part is crucial and typically one of the hardest to meet. The goal “to increase positive culture at Haden High School by the end of the 2019-2020 school year” is a great thing to want, but how are you going to measure if you have achieved this goal? Developing the tool that will be used to measure the goal should be incorporated while creating the M of the SMART goal.


Now is the time to do a gut check. Are you writing goals that are too attainable- you want to make sure you are successful so you do not challenge yourself or others enough? Or could you be writing goals that have the best intention, but are not realistic? The first can lead to mediocrity; whereas, the second can lead to frustration and a sense of failure.  Think of it this way, if you have never ran before then setting the goal of running a marathon in 6 months is not reasonable; however, setting a goal of running for 5 minutes straight after training for a year is most likely not challenging enough. This is the time to be rigorous, and yet realistic.


I do not think I am speaking for myself when I say I do not want or like busy work. Every goal and target needs to be relevant towards the big picture. This part of the SMART goal is a good time to look at assignments in the classroom that you have always given and determine if you are doing the assignment because it is relevant or because it is just what you have always done? If you have a team that is having a hard time nailing down the relevant portion, it is probably because the big picture or the “why” has not been clearly defined or agreed upon.


Every goal needs to have an end date to see if you achieved the goal or not. To simply say “I will live a healthier life” is neither time-bound or measurable. To even say “I will lose 20 pounds by running” covers all parts (kinda), but is not time-bound. How often are you going to run? When would you like to have the 20 pounds gone by? Placing a time element with a goal helps everyone on a team or PLC strive towards the end target with tenacity  to be successful by the deadline.

Extra Tips

  • Be flexible- if you realize a goal is not working- rewrite your goal.
  • Create checklists (check out my blog on checklists!)- this can be daily or weekly to help you stay on track.
  • State goals in a positive way.
  • Write down goals- make goals visible so you have a reminder of what you are striving for.
  • Celebrating- when you achieve a goal, celebrate it!!

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