As we inch closer and closer to September and the start of a new school year, students may be starting to feel some anxiety about the academic challenges that lay ahead. I consider the first day of school as a kind of academic “new year’s day” - a new class, a new curriculum and very often, new educational challenges await. Whether your child is starting junior kindergarten, grade 5 or grade 9, the first day back to school can be daunting! A good way to ease some stress about starting a new school year is to set some academic goals or targets at home before they hit the classroom.
Studies show that goal-setting can help kids gain a sense of self-discipline and increase the internal drive it takes to stay motivated to complete the tasks they have been assigned both in school and in everyday life. A goal is basically an outcome, something that will make a difference once achieved. It can’t be too ambitious or else it will be unattainable, but also not so simple that it does not challenge the individual. A goal also has to be realistic, requiring effort and focus to achieve it. And research shows that discussing goal setting with students from an early age will encourage them to strive for more.
It is important that kids, just like their parents, set goals or ‘new school year’s resolutions’. Goal setting isn’t just for grown-ups! According to Dr. Michele Borba, a bestselling author, TED Talks star and internationally recognized educator, even kids as young as five years old can benefit from goal setting. Some benefits include:
- seeing your child start a school project–without waiting until the last minute–and finish it
- finding your child doing his chores–without your nagging–because he knows he has to do them in order to start on his homework
- discovering your child thinking through the jobs she needs to do for the week and making plans to complete them
- seeing your child’s confidence grow as he/she succeeds in the goals they have set for themself
Every September, I send a letter home with my students encouraging them to sit down with their parents to discuss some goals for the upcoming academic year. High school students often need to focus on upcoming exams and elementary/primary students could be starting some good organizational habits plus developing their reading and writing skills. And the goals/targets don’t have to be merely focused on just education – they can be personal as well, for example, decreasing the number of lates to school, joining a sports team or reading one novel per month for example.
Goal setting for kids doesn’t have to be difficult either. Depending on your child’s age, it could be as simple as “I will ask at least five questions per day” or “I will aim to achieve a better participation mark in gym class”. For younger students, it could even include starting to use a daily agenda or planner book to keep track of homework assignments and test dates. Organization is something a lot of my elementary-aged students struggle with so starting them early is good practice.
I spent seven years as a secondary science and psychology teacher in London, England and I worked with my students to set SMART targets:
S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attainable
R = Relevant, Rigorous, Realistic, and Results Focused
T = Timely and Trackable
Now, it’s not super easy to write SMART targets as it is a skill that takes time to develop, but for high school students who have their sights set on a competitive college or university education, getting them into the practice of setting more detailed and relevant goals is crucial!
Successful students are well organized, active learners who take responsibility for their education and set both personal and academic goals. As always, it is imperative that the parent-teacher-student trilogy is constantly in communication with each part so that the student is confident and proactive in their learning. Be sure to set some goals for your aspiring student today!