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Resolutions don’t work. Do this instead.

Chrissy Beltran in a blue shirt sitting at deskholding a pencil over a notebook with laptop on it with the words "The Reason Resolutions Don't Work and What to Do Instead."Tell me if this sounds familiar.
Every year, we’d sit in a room and set goals as a faculty.
“We’re going to get 90% of our students to the “Meets Standard” level!
“We’re going to get 20% more 4s in writing!”
“We’re going to have 94% of our kids reading on level by the end of the year!” 
And then?
Everybody went back to class and did the same thing they did the year before.

Some tried out new teaching strategies, some did independent research, some used different instructional materials, and figured out a new approach, and some hit the xerox button and duplicated the last ten years of their careers.

Nothing really changed because teacher resolutions don’t work. What educators need is a strategy to help them reach their goals.

Goals without plans are really just wishes!

We talk a lot about what happens if we don’t meet our goals, because it’s commonly understood that we often don’t meet our goals.

We say we’d like to accomplish something, and then if we get even anywhere near the ballpark, we can pat ourselves on the back and say we gave it the old college try.

But that’s not how education changes.

Printable calendar in a binder and Better than Resolution worksheet on top of a desk because resolutions don't work, do this instead.

Resolutions don’t work. Do this instead.

If you’re a coach, and you’re ready to make a change, here’s how you do it in three (ok, maybe four) easy steps (and it doesn’t involve a resolution).

1. Make a decision.
2. Make a plan.
3. Do it.
That’s it!
You use these three steps to help yourself make a change happen, and you can also use them to facilitate a grade level or a vertical team in making a change happen.
Here are the details.

1. Make a decision.

Decisions are actions. They’re things like, “I’m going to meet with two guided reading groups every single day.” This might be in the same vein as the goal of “95% of my students will reach grade level by the end of the year,” but it’s an action.  

Actions either happen or they don’t, and you can check in on an action. Every day and every week are opportunities to see whether the action happened or not.

2. Make a plan.

So there are obviously reasons why teachers aren’t currently taking that action. Maybe classroom management is getting in the way. Maybe there’s too much whole-group instruction. Maybe teachers aren’t prepared with lessons every day. Maybe they don’t know enough about the strategy or method to implement it.
If teachers think that wanting to have two guided reading groups a day is enough, they’re setting themselves up for failure. Instead, figure out what needs to change in order for that to happen. Do you need to create a schedule together? That’s part of the plan. Do you need to reteach management strategies? That’s part of the plan. Do you need to model a lesson with their kids? That’s part of the plan. Figure out when things happen and what will happen. Dates are important because that’s how you get action.

3. Do it. 

This one is easier said than done, but once you have a plan, you’re ready to carry it out.
For coaches, I’m going to add another little step that’s really really really important.

4. Check in.

Take a copy of your plan and check in with teachers. Are they doing what they said they would? If not, what can you do to support them in the plan that they created?
As an instructional coach, setting goals with teachers is an important part of the job. But sometimes we set goals without a realistic plan to achieve them! Grab a free goal setting printable to help you facilitate teacher goal setting and create a workable plan. It's an easy-to-use worksheet that will help you make your resolutions into a reality. Click to read the post and download your step-by-step guide complete with a planning template for 2019!To help you get started, I’ve included a handy dandy planning freebie below! It includes some great tip for coaches to help you facilitate something better than setting goals with teachers! It’ll give you a place to start when you’re communicating with teachers (or even yourself) about how things will be different in the new year.
Because wishing things would change doesn’t change a thing.

If you’re a coach who’s facilitating teachers in setting goals and making plans, I’ve got the perfect guide for you. And it’s FREE! You can sign up to get it in your inbox below.

It’s got tips for coaches and a step-by-step guide to getting teachers to create a plan (and to carry out the plan, too).  Check it out!

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  1. I love all of your ideas and I follow you regularly. I completely agree with your "call" to action. Here is my very serious, very LARGE, very frustrating question that I am struggling with going into the new year. What can you do when you want to set goals, you want to take action and make plans to achieve those goals (and you have MANY struggling students….more than 75% of your Grade 1 and 2 population), BUT you cannot get admin to see there are too many unnecessary interruptions to the teaching day, that consistency is not there, that "other" activities should not take the place of academic learning time when so many students are struggling readers and learners? An example: our of 21 possible "teaching" days in November, 10 of them were in some way interrupted with "non-teaching" interruptions such as assemblies, meetings, mandatory workshops, etc. How would you approach that with admin? Or would you leave it alone and work within the confines of what you have? Thanks for any advice you can offer!

  2. Michelle,

    I'm so sorry I'm barely responding to this! It sort of got lost in my email notifications! The situation you're describing is very challenging. I understand how hard it is to help your teachers prioritize instructional time when the administration isn't on board with it. Could you possibly find an article that shares the importance of quality instructional time? You might also talk to another school in your area and ask them what they're doing. If they're prioritizing instructional time, that might be something you can take back to your administrator to share what other schools are doing. If that doesn't work, you probably will have to work with teachers to figure out how to prioritize the essentials in the time that they have. :/

    I would love to hear how your year is going and offer any help I can! You can email me at chrissy@buzzingwithmsb.com!

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