I packed my holiday decorations away for another year, and it’s time to face the second half of this school year with confidence and courage. What better way to demonstrate that than with some goals? Not resolutions – those don’t work. Goals, however, with specific steps to achieve the desired outcome, are part of my plan. Without an action plan, goals are just wishes and most likely will fade quickly into the surreal world of “what might have been.”
The Trouble with Class Meetings
My school uses PBIS, which stands for Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. One way we implement this in my school is with weekly class meetings. Class meetings have been around for years, and I have to be honest and share that I didn’t always appreciate their power. I didn’t like them at all. Part of it is due to my personality. I’m not super touchy-feely. I’m suspicious of people who rely on their feelings as the guiding force in their lives. I mean, your feelings are like whims and can change with little thought or purpose. That’s everything I’m against in life! Plus, I thought it was a real waste of quality instructional time. I’m evaluated on my students’ mastery of academic content, not on how well they play with others. I was not a fan.
A Fresh Perspective
As with anything, however, a new idea can offer a fresh perspective. That’s what happened with me and class meetings. We were reading a story from our basal in which one of the characters was demonstrating some admirable traits. That’s when the toast popped. (I know most people experience a new idea as a light bulb shining, but for me, it’s toast popping. It doesn’t have to make sense…that’s just the way it is.) I thought, “Why not combine a review of the story’s content with a class meeting on this particular character trait?” I could combine comprehension, character analysis, citing text evidence, and a class meeting all in one. I instantly fell in love.
Defining Character Goals
It turns out our stories are full of good character traits that anyone – parent or educator – would want kids to emulate. Since “the toast popped” in the morning when we were due to have a class meeting, I didn’t have time to create a fancy printable. I quickly made a couple of slides in Smart Notebook detailing the character’s trait. We discussed it and, using a single sticky note, wrote our character goals. These are different from learning goals, which focus on academic content. Character goals, however, focus on how we want to grow as a human being.
Character Goals Galore!
We’ve been doing our class meetings and creating our character goals like this for a few months now. It doesn’t take very long – either with my prep work or the conference itself. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised at how my students keep their goals from week to week. One student helped another clean her desk. Afterward, he said to me, “I just wanted to reach my kindness goal.” Absolutely achieved!
Common Themes in Character Goals
Once you start looking for admirable qualities in stories, it’s not hard to discern some common themes – kindness, respect, doing your best, courage, perseverance. Good quality literature often has many character goals you could emphasize in your class meetings.