You’re a good teacher, so it’s probable that you do some kind of goal-setting with your students. If you’re super sharp, you might even use the WOOP method developed by Gabrielle Oettingen.
When goals or plans are vague, they don’t work well.
Vague goals anesthetize the goal-setter. “Yeah, I’m paying more attention to school,” the goal-setter might say in October in reference to the vague goal he set in September. And so on he goes, head lost in the vapors of a vague goal.
Vague plans suffocate the goal-setter. “Okay, gotta try harder, gotta try harder — that’s my plan, try try try harder.” When your plan is vague, you’re never off the hook. You could always be doing more.
I speak to my students about these two problems, telling them that part of enjoying the process of school — and of life — is to be a competent goal-setter and plan-maker. Don’t be a jerk to yourself, I say. Be specific. Make your goal a thing you can objectively measure at a set date in the future. Make your plan a task you can objectively say, “I did or I did not do that.”
For goals, be specific. I’d like to translate a two-page article into French by the end of this quarter — not I want to get better at French. I’d like to improve my GPA to a 2.4 by next week because right now it’s a 2.1 — not I need to do better.
For plans, be specific, too. I’m going to spend five minutes per day reviewing French vocabulary. I’m going to read one new blog article each day about learning French. I’m going to translate one paragraph per week. Not I’m going to focus more in French. I’m going to turn in my test corrections in math. I’m going to attend Monday Academic Center to meet with Ms. Damico about my paper. I’m going to ask Mr. Stuart the list of questions I come up with during each night’s reading. Not I’m going to work harder.
Of course, you can have too much of a good thing. Goals that are too many or too high will grind your heart down like a mortar and pestle. Plans that are too lengthy or too time-consuming will suffocate you — you’ll feel a tightness in your chest all the time.
Wisdom is more than helpful here. Seek it like gold! And help your students do that, too.