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New Year, Fresh Goals

Mark Blaisdell
Happy new year, everyone! Earlier this month I talked to students during a middle school assembly about the new year traditionally being a time to take stock of where you are and to set some goals aimed at where you would like to be. I led the presentation with a quick video about growth mindsets that included lots of sayings about our never-ending possibility to change. My personal favorite was a meme that used the word “fail” as an acronym that stands for First Attempt In Learning. We followed up the presentation with two activities. First, students completed a survey we designed that has them reflect upon their mastery of the key academic skills that make up what we call the middle school toolbox. The toolbox includes skills like taking structured notes, managing/organizing digital and non-digital materials, and using rubrics effectively. Next, we had students set two goals. One of these goals was an academic goals like managing time more effectively and the other was more of a ‘life goal’ like dealing with stress better or learning to play guitar. They wrote their goals on a winter object (snowman, mitten, or fir tree) to make a “New Year’s Goals” school display on the middle school wave bulletin board.

The January module in the “Parenting” MOOC will focus on the hows and whys of goal-setting with middle schoolers, which is, I believe, a fairly nuanced activity at their age for a number of reasons. First, middle schoolers tend to live in the moment so thinking too far in the future can be a challenge. Second, although we can easily see the potential of their “whole lives in front of them,” middle schoolers, in the pressure they feel to form a permanent identity, tend to think of themselves (and characterize themselves) in fairly ‘fixed’ ways. For example, they think they are an athlete or not. Or a musician or not. Or good at this and bad at that. Third, middle schoolers often underestimate their ability to change themselves and the world around them. This makes complete sense considering where they are in their lives. Much of their worlds are defined and shaped by others, and, though they often express a desire for independence, few have had the opportunity to make big changes in their lives. I believe that opportunities to set goals is a way to help middle schoolers grow in this capacity. With midterm comments coming out, advisors will be setting goals with advisees. Parents should seize this opportunity, as well. This is a great time to set both academic and personal goals with your child. A new year is also a time for we adults to model our own capacities to change. If you are willing to enlist your child’s help in meeting a personal goal - that is even better!

Please remember that our January MS Communication Meeting has been replaced to honor the opportunity to come to Derryfield on Thursday, February 1st, at 6:00 p.m. to hear nationally-coveted speaker, Dr. Christine Carter, a Sociologist and Senior Fellow at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and author of  The Sweet Spot (2015) and Raising Happiness (2011). Check out her award-winning blog, and you will see why we are so excited to have her come speak to us!

Here’s to great 2018, everyone.
Cheers, Mark
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The Derryfield School

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