Sunday, August 22, 2010

Setting Goals

At the beginning of the summer, I set a goal for myself of running 8 miles on Labor Day.  I realize that none of you know that because I wasn't blogging back then, you will just have to trust me.  As part of the training for that, I went out and ran 7 miles this morning, which is further than I have ever run before.  While the running part is not necessarily "post" worthy, the setting of a goal and working hard to achieve it is.  I had already planned to have my students make their first blog post their three goals for the year and include what they were willing to do to meet those goals.  But as I thought about it as I was finishing my run today, I am going to need for them to check in throughout the year (quarterly?) and reflect on what their goals are/were, have they taken the steps that they felt they needed to in order to reach their goals, if they have achieved their goals, what new goals do they have for themselves and if they haven't achieved their goals,  what do they need to do differently to attain them. 

I don't know if I am going to finish my 8 miles on Labor Day, but I do know that setting goals for myself and being willing to sacrifice (such as leaving the house at 6:15 on a Sunday morning) has been a worthwhile enterprise for myself.  I will be posting my goals for the year sometime next week and following the same manner of reflection on them as my students as we finish each quarter.

Perhaps more importantly than reaching my goals, I guess I had a bit of an epiphany as I was "cooling down" from my run.  As I walked by my neighbor's house, my neighbor who is off to a prestigious Ivy League institution so that she can run cross-country, I realized that my seven miles was probably just a training run for her.  I thought about the fact that it took me somewhere around 55 minutes (I am not really sure as my watch was "missing" when I went to look for it this morning), and would probably take her around 45.  Did this take anything away from my finishing?  Does it matter that I, at 41, can probably not keep up with a  just-graduated from high school runner over the course of 7 miles?  Should I even be thinking about what kind of time she is running and just focus on my own run, at my own pace, knowing that I have put in the work and will be ready to cross the finish line at some point?

I am sure that you already know where this is going.  Maybe we should be less concerned about the pace at which our students learn and be more concerned with the learning process.  Maybe teaching them to learn, and more importantly to think, should be the end in itself.  Grades and test scores are currently being used as a measuring stick for the success and failure of not only students, but also schools and teachers.  Does this make sense?  Just as I am not starting at the same point as my neighbor on our running schedule, does that mean that my ability to finish is any less important or significant?  Not all of my students are starting from the same point academically, socially, emotionally, financially, etc., so does it make sense for me to expect them to all reach the finish line at exactly the same time with exactly the same level of proficiency?  I can certainly expect them to grow, develop, and work at a consistent pace.  I can certainly expect them to practice the skills that I am working to give them and, therefore, become more proficient with them.  But how do I "grade" that achievement?  How do I assess that "consistent pace"?  These will be questions that I will have to continue to explore as the summer ends and school begins.

1 comment:

Sue Densmore said...

Dan -

This is such a great post, and so in line with what I've been thinking about and reading this summer.

Don't worry about not keeping up with the neighbors - way to go with the personal best!

Lord knows, I can relate. I golf every Thursday, and if I compared my score to the scores of those I play with I'd never go back!

Peace -