Goal Setting in Early Childhood Education 2017

What is it that you want to accomplish this year?

It’s January again and time to reflect on what to accomplish for the year as a professional. While I set my goals each August/September for classroom communities, my professional goals follow the calendar year.

Why set professional goals?

Professional goals support our long-term happiness and job satisfaction. They are different from New Year’s resolutions, which often fade away by the end of January. Professional goals are focused on our professional growth and when we set these goals, we move forward in who we want to be as early childhood educators.  

Reflecting back on my professional goal setting process, I have outlined my system for professional goal setting below.

I start with an overarching theme for the year. Why a theme, as I have learned from experience, themes provide a direction while allowing for flexibility.

I start by asking myself, “Do I want to focus on a skill set, explore a theory, or something else?” I try to focus my theme on something that I am really interested in, something that will hold my interest for a whole year. When thinking about my theme, I work hard to make sure it is a big idea that allows for many possibilities. Last year’s theme was “Building Professional Visibility in ECE Communities.” Some other examples of past themes are, “Building Classroom Communities,” “Growing My Leadership,” “Environments as our Professional Calling Cards,” and “What does it Means to be an Early Childhood Professional?”

My theme for 2017 is “The Emotional Lives of Early Childhood Educators.” I decided on this theme because it aligns with the work I am doing. I have a long-term interest in early childhood educator’s experiences and the impact of the emotional labor that is needed to do the work as an early childhood professional.

Once I have my theme, I start to think about my goals for the year. Goals are specific and measurable and come with a list of activities that you check off to show progress towards your goals. I always start by asking a series of questions.

What is it that I want to learn through the exploration of my theme?

What materials, resources, skills and/or knowledge will I need to help me in my journey?

How do I hope to be changed through the process of learning about my theme? 

After I take some time to answer the questions that I have, I need to make a decision about the big ideas that will become my goals for the year.

Based on this year’s theme, “The Emotional Lives of Early Childhood Educators,” I decided to document early childhood educator stories – to meet and film or record what 20 early childhood educators have to say about their work and their values. To do this work, I will need to set some specific activities that allow me to break down my goal to learn from early childhood educators’ stories in specific ways (the activities for my goals). An activity is a part of my larger goal, so thinking about the details would include items like, developing a strategy for collecting stories (what do I need to learn to do this work), determining what equipment I might need to do the work (what materials might I need), scheduling time to interview early childhood educators, making meaning of what was shared (how might I be changed through the process), and editing content and making it available through the website.

So, through the activities, I am able to see what tasks need to be accomplished. Now there are even more details to add but these five main activities will help me reach my larger goal of documenting stories that fits into my overarching theme of understanding the emotional lives of early childhood educators.

Are you ready to write your goals?

Start by thinking about your big idea – one that can engage you for a whole year.

Next ask yourself the questions of – “What is it that I want to learn through the exploration of my theme? What materials, resources, skills and/or knowledge will I need to help me in my journey? How do I hope to be changed through the process of learning about my theme?”

Then write your goal or goals for the year – using specific actions that you can break down into activities. I will take time to focus making sure that you can measure what you write – the “who, what, how, when, and why.” Use these specific, measurable actions to plan your activities.

Your activities will then flow from your goal, expanding on the “who, what, how, when, and why.” If you are having problems with your activities, then your goal may not be specific enough.

Some tips for goal setting

Your goals should reflect the time that you can realistically spend.

Generally 1-2 hours a week is a good estimate.

Generally 1-2 goals with an activity for each month works well.

Check your progress against your goals every month and place your goal or goals someplace that you will see them on a regular basis. For example, I put a reminder on my calendar each month to check my progress.

While there are many more details that go into my plan, you get the idea. If you are spending a few hours a week, reading a book in a month and reflecting on what you read is a realistic activity.

In December 2017/early January 2018, I will come back and see what progress I made towards my goals and reflecting on my learning and how it changed me as a professional. I will use the reflections to start to think about the next year’s plans.

What professional goal might you set for yourself in 2017?