One of the things I miss about teaching high school is the excitement of a new school year. The promise of empty notebooks, and the desks perfectly aligned were always calling me back to my classroom in early August. These images reminded me that I had an opportunity to start fresh, to begin again, and that each of my students had the same chance.
Sean Covey calls these beginnings and ending "momentous moments." In his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens, Covey says these times have momentum and power that should be utilized to one's advantage. The start of a new school year is the perfect time to evaluate your academic and personal life and set some goals. According to Covey, other momentous moments for teens include a break-up, a new job, a set-back, moving to a new school, a new day, or even a new class schedule. Don't wait for New Year's Resolutions to evaluate your decisions or direction and make changes or improvements. Harness the freshness and energy of a new school year and set a few goals to get started on the right foot!
Here are a few guidelines for positive goal-setting for teens:
Using the S.M.A.R.T. goals guidelines may help you reach your goals. It is spelled out here in teen-friendly terms.
SPECIFIC. Make your goal specific. Do you want to get a 3.7 GPA or just pass geometry class with a C+. Either of these goals is better than, "Work hard in school." Make your goals specific, write them down and post them where you see them often, (in your locker or on your mirror).
MEASURABLE. Your goal has to be measurable or how will you know when you achieve it? If your goal is to "give more time to others," you can articulate this by being more specific such as "committing to five hours of community service per month." This is specific and can be measured!
ACTION. Write down three steps you must take to achieve this goal. Now you goal and a plan.
RELEVANT. Why is this important to you? If the goal is not important to you, chances are, you may not follow through with it. Choose something you really believe in or feel strongly about.
TIME. What is your deadline? Goals are of varying lengths. You may have a goal that has a three week deadline, and another that has a three month deadline. The more thought and time you put into setting goals, the more likely you are to achieve them.
If your teen can set one school-related goal and one personal goal, and write down these five items for each goal, you have given him or her a great tool in organization and task-achievement. This is also a great opportunity for parents to engage in the goal-setting exercise as well, so don't let the kids have all the fun. Parents can tackle a job that has been sitting on their to-do list, or enroll in a class they have always wanted to take.
My husband and I used a variation of this method with our children for many years, writing goals on notecards the night before school started. We dated and saved these cards. Every once in a while, these cards re-surface, and our kids get a kick out of reading them, revisiting the scrawled handwriting and youthful goals of their younger selves, now that they are in their twenties.
Enjoy the exercise!