Part I: Goal Setting
Your students are not the only members of your school community optimistically entering the first few weeks of the new school year. As the leader of your district, you too have an opportunity to use the beginning of the school year to reflect on what you hope to accomplish personally and professionally in the coming year. To inspire your efforts, we have tips for setting and sticking to your personal and professional goals. As bonus content, we offer possible areas of focus to help you strengthen your board, community, and staff relations.
How to Set Personal and Professional Goals for the This School Year
Try not to feel frustrated if your goal setting exercise leaves you staring at a blank page (or screen, if you’re using SuperEval), unsure of where to begin. The goal-setting process is critical for all leaders, but that does not mean it is always effortless. Follow these tips to guide your efforts.
#1 – Make both personal and professional goals. Having balance in your life is crucial to your ability to serve in your role as a district leader effectively. The purpose of goal-setting is to accomplish meaningful initiatives that enable growth for you and your schools. The objective is not to overburden your already heavy workload. Make sure at least one of your goals is personal. Perhaps it is leaving the office at least three days a week at lunchtime to walk or jog, making family dinner a priority, or networking with school leaders in other districts to share best practices.
#2 – Review input from your last evaluation. Take a look back at past feedback from trusted colleagues, mentors, teachers, and staff. Understand what initiatives they would like to see prioritized and use their insights to guide your decisions. From there, you’ll quickly be able to identify top professional goals aimed at improving your district, staff, community, and student achievement.
#3 – Set SMART goals. Establish goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Based. The purpose of SMART goals is to give you parameters within which to identify areas of focus where you can be successful.
- Specific: Quantify and qualify what you hope to accomplish. Instead of saying you want to “hire more teachers,” specify that you want to hire two more STEM teachers and one more art teacher.
- Measurable: It will be challenging to determine if you have met your goals unless you can measure your progress. How would you confirm, for example, that you have improved relations with your teachers? One way may be to survey teachers’ sentiments toward the district’s leadership at the start and the end of the year using a quantitative survey method and assess if the average satisfaction rating has increased.
- Attainable: Set yourself up for success by outlining goals that are reasonable to achieve based on your current landscape. For example, it may be lofty to hope to have the highest-rated STEM scores in your state, especially if your school is currently ranked in the lower half of schools. Instead, aim reasonably to increase your ranking for the bottom third percentile to the middle third.
- Relevant: Ask yourself why you want to accomplish your goal. Why is the goal applicable to you, your district, your staff, or your students? If you can justify that a more successful athletic program will increase needed enrollment from students outside your district, you have a relevant correlation. If you cannot explain a goal, consider what would be a more impactful use of your efforts.
- Time-Based: Give yourself a deadline, and know that not all due dates have to be the end of the school year. You may instead want to onboard a new school board member by the end of the first quarter, propose a funding grant by December first, or implement active shooter safety training for all staff in correlation with your mid-year faculty training meetings.
Part II: How to Stick with and Accomplish Your Goals
Setting goals is only the first step. Use the tips below to ensure your SMART goals are trackable, accomplishable, and visible to you throughout the year.
- Write Down Your Goals. Many executives and professional coaching experts agree that one of the best ways to ensure you never lose sight of your goals is to write them down. Whether you prefer digital or paper record keeping, document your intended accomplishments in a highly visible place that will serve as a reminder to you of the steps needed for each to be scratched off your to-do list.
- Identify Smaller Steps. Tracking progress of a lofty goal can feel overwhelming. Break up your goals into smaller tasks needed to get there, and focus on those steps daily or weekly. For example, if you hope to improve community relations, your sub-steps may include issuing a baseline community survey, creating a stakeholder team, creating an outreach plan, executing and measuring plan elements, and then resurveying the community at the end of the year. Such smaller milestones will be easier to focus on daily.
- Prioritize Goals. You may want to accomplish three things this year, but giving them all equal weight will add pressure to your already full plate. Instead, prioritize your goals in terms of district impact, relevance, and timing or deadline, and use your priorities to guide your daily efforts.
- Track Goals and Progress. Document all the steps you take toward reaching your goals in a transparent, convenient, and shareable system. Documenting your efforts will help keep you motivated and will be valuable next year when you aim to replicate successful best practices or continue your momentum by setting even higher goals in the same areas. An online, goal-aligned, reflective, and evidence-based evaluation tool such as SuperEval can help.
Ideas to Get You Started
To help inspire your choices for your 2019/2020 school year goal-setting efforts, what follows are some goals for consideration, inspired by some of the top challenges from school leaders across the country.
School Board Relations
- Create a one, five, and ten-year district planning roadmap with school board buy-in.
- Improve regular school board communications by identifying and implementing new or improved collaborative communication channels.
- Identify at least one way to leverage social media to improve two-way dialogue between the district and the community.
- Establish a community engagement program that can bring students, staff, and residents together on a local beautification project.
- Identify and implement at least one employee engagement and retention strategy to reduce staff attrition by 10 percent.
- Implement a school safety training course with assistance from outside, local area experts to improve staff’s feelings of security while at work.
- Implement a cross-training program to help staff on course to retire within the next year to share their institutional knowledge with new hires before their retirement.
A new school year means a blank slate and limitless possibilities. By setting SMART goals, remaining vigilant, and committed to your progress, you will be best prepared for a successful school year full of positive growth.