How many times have you set a goal? It may be too many to count. Perhaps the better question is how many times have you set the SAME goal? The question becomes do we have the right goal for the right time and if we have the right goal, how do we see it through to fruition? The answer is deceptively simple. The answer is consistency. It’s easy to say but difficult for many of us to put into action. So what will be your goal for this school year? How will you ensure you work on it consistently? Here are some ideas to get you started on an EPIC Year.

1. Be Honest

Where are you right now? What evidence do you have to support your opinions about your current status? I’d encourage you to use a TELL Self-Assessment to get started. Pick a topic, or a domain or the foundational criteria and jump in. The more frank with yourself you are the better. You cannot make focused, sustainable growth if you do not have a solid grasp on where you are right now. The more accurate you are the better the results. It’s not always easy to look critically at our own practice but you deserve to grow and improve so it becomes a necessary part of the process. I would caution you not to look at these areas for growth as failures. We are way too critical of ourselves and must remember to extend the graciousness we extend to students to ourselves. It’s not a failure until you choose not to grow. Fail Forward – Grow – you deserve it.

2. Be Organized

Planning for growth is just as important as the growth itself. It is not often that things happen magically outside of the cinema so if you want to improve your practice we need a plan. The TELL Project believes that every teacher can be EPIC and created this EPIC Growth Plan to streamline the process for you! Download your preferred template and let’s get down to business!

3. Be Concrete: Set a goal but make sure it’s SMART.

It’s important to set a goal. Try using the TELL Self-assessments for a content specific view of your practice. Once you have a topic for your goal, develop it so that is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound (SMART). 

Envision your outcomes:

Specific: With the best intentions, we often set goals that are too general and lofty. We have the right ideas and usually the right motivations but setting a goal requires us to be very specific. We need to hone our attention to the most important parts of our growth. The more specific the goal, the easier it will be to make progress.

Measurable: How will you know you achieved your goal? What data will you collect to ensure you are objective in assessing your progress in achieving your goal. Who will help you collect data? You cannot teach and collect data simultaneously. It’s just not possible. So will you ask a friend to help collect data? Will video yourself and watch it to collect your data. Or how about asking a student to fill out a feedback form each day?

Achievable: When choosing a goal, I like to encourage teachers to look for their bubble skills. In standardized testing students who are close to passing are sometimes called “bubble kids” and are often the focus in trying to raise scores, because getting them over the fence is about making focused shift. These “bubble kids” are the achievable goal because they are already close while students in the lowest quartile have the longest distance to travel and will necessitate substantial time for skill development.  I pose it is the same with our behaviors. IF we set a goal based on a behavior we do sporadically or inconsistently, we are more likely to stay motivated to see it through. So set a goal with one of those things you’d like to improve but that you already do.

Realistic: Change takes time. It is not something that happens over night. I have found myself telling teachers to be gracious with themselves over and over again this summer. We have to really examine what we want to change or shift and how much work that will take when you look at everything else on your plate. If for example working on your own target language skills is your goal, while moving to the country for an extended period of time would be the ideal way to improve your skills, it’s probably not possible to quit your job and leave your family to do so. A more realistic goal may be to meet with a tutor a couple of times a week. Read in the target language each day, etc. While we cannot change our realities we can be creative in making shifts that allow us to bring our goals to fruition.

Plan your Route to Success

Time-bound: What gets measured gets done! Choose a target completion date and put it on your calendar! Decide when you will check in on your progress and put those dates on your calendar. In our ever-chaotic lives, what gets scheduled, gets done. Want to get better at lesson planning, schedule it. Want to implement weekly performance assessments – schedule it.

Implement your plan

This is where we play! We grow, we experiment and if we are dedicated enough we fail forward growing our practice!

Collect Data and Reflect

4. Be Accountable

My mom has a saying about good intentions. I’ll spare you the saying but will share that good intentions don’t get you anywhere. I find that accountability is the only way I get things done. So at work, I have my teachers who hold me accountable. I have a small group that whether they know it or not really motivate me and push me and challenge me and for that I am forever grateful. They keep me going. At the gym I have a buddy who likes five am works outs as much as I do but meets me anyway. I go because I need to and don’t want to let her down at the same time. With my nutrition, I have a girlfriend who calls me out every night even though she lives hundreds of miles away. I serve as an accountability buddy for others starting the same nutrition plan I’m on and they keep me motivated and attentive to myself as well. Even with this, I have a dear friend who keeps me motivated to put fingers to keyboard with a gentle often witty nudge. It truly takes a village to keep me in line! What I love about is the interconnectedness. Its human I think to put others first – we are taught to in my opinion from a young age. If however, we do not take care of ourselves we cannot take care of anyone else. Find a buddy. One who will call you to the carpet when necessary just as much as help you find perspective and motivation. Commit to regular contact and feedback on your progress toward your goals.

The key to change is consistency. It may not be a pretty process all mapped out in lock step fashion or dipped in glitter but you can shine nonetheless. The process of change is good for us. It models how to be a constant learner, how to fail forward, which is good for us and for all those who we encounter. Get pumped! Find a Buddy Set your goal and jump on for an EPIC year!

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Published by Alyssa Villarreal

Alyssa Villarreal, is the President of Advance Learning and World Language Coordinator for Shelby County Schools (SCS) in Memphis, TN. Ms. Villarreal holds two masters degrees (Curriculum and instruction and educational leadership). As the World Language Coordinator for Shelby County Schools (SCS), she coordinates the district’s language program, which includes programs in eight languages including Spanish, French, German, Russian, Latin, Japanese, Arabic and Chinese. Ms. Villarreal has written and directed three successful Foreign Language Assistance program (FLAP) grants in her nine-year tenure in SCS. The first was to build a K-12 Russian program and was received in 2007. She was one of eight World Language Coordinators nationally to receive a 2008 FLAP grant to build K-12 global villages in Japanese, Arabic, Russian, and Chinese. In addition to her district duties, she has worked as the Foreign Language methods instructor for the University of Memphis. She has served as program director of three STARTALK programs for Memphis City Schools, consultant to other STARTALK programs and a STARTALK site visitor.

In addition to her district duties, she has worked as the Foreign Language methods instructor for the University of Memphis. She is currently serving as President of the National Association of District Supervisors of Foreign Languages (NADSFL) and was named the 2012 NADSFL Supervisor of the Year.

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