What amazes me time after time, year after year, in dealing with my students, is that a lot of them really don’t know how to achieve success.  School should be a great place to teach children the methods to achieve success.

One concept that I introduce very early are the simple, yet very effective principles of goal setting.  Some students in the early grades have heard about the importance of goals.  By their high school years, virtually all students have heard about the need to set goals.   Few students however, are taught how to achieve their goals.

One day my principal walked into my class as I was teaching about goal setting.  I had just asked my grade 5 class the question “How can you eat an elephant?”  After a long pause I asked my principal and he answered, “One bite at a time!”  After another long pause, my students start to get it.  At that point, I elaborated with the statement that no matter how huge the goal may be, “A journey of a thousand miles, begins with the first step.”  It’s at this point that I tell students that everything is incremental.  I give them the example of me and my weight.  I didn’t put on 20 extra pounds all at once.  Over the years, I exercised less and less and ate a bit more and more until I started to put on an extra pound (or two) a year.  Over 20 years, those pounds add up!  Since it took me 20 years to gain the extra weight, I’m not going to lose it all at once.

How To Set Goals

Most goals are reached one step at a time.  The most important thing is to get started.  I made a conscious effort a number of years ago, to get back into shape and exercise.   Since I’m often too tired to exercise before and after school, I started to exercise with my students by running and doing stretches with them during our physical education classes.  I not only show students how goal setting works in theory, but also in practice.

Early in the year, I distribute a goal-setting handout to the students.  I also make a transparency for the overhead. Then I explain each point to the students.  (See end of this article for black line master.)

When I first started this practical goal-setting exercise with my  students three years ago, my goal was to run 5 minutes non-stop by the end of the school year in June.  That was no easy task.  I tried all summer, before school started to get into shape by running.  For some reason, although I ran all the time in high school and partly throughout university, I couldn’t run more than one and a half minutes!  For some time, I just couldn’t break that barrier.  So, I went “public.”  After telling my students my goal, writing it down, then posting it publicly for all to see, I was determined to show my students how to implement a goal.

I am happy to write, that before the year was over I did achieve the goal of running 5 minutes without stopping.  The next year, I doubled the goal to 10 minutes and showed those students how to achieve their goals while I modeled how I achieve mine.  Again, I succeeded.  Flush with success and confidence, the following year, I doubled the goal to 20 minutes.  That was definitely a year long goal, which I succeeded in achieving.  The following year, I continued with the goal increasing it to 30 minutes.  That goal was also achieved.  Next year, I’m looking at doing 60 minutes!

I tell students that their goals don’t need to be school goals.  Over the years, their goals have included doing more reading, to becoming a better soccer goalie, getting an advanced yellow belt in karate, earning more “I Did It Awards”, scoring a goal in hockey, and watching less T.V.  Some students duplicated my goal of running.  Knowing these students’ goals and what’s important to them, gives teachers a great opportunity to help students to connect them to success.  If I know that a student is looking for a babysitting job and I know parents who are looking for a babysitter, I can connect them.  It’s the same for students looking for jobs or places on the school team.  If I know of someone who can help them, I will connect them.  This approach also shows students the power of networking and getting to know other people.
Each of us has just 86, 400 seconds every day to use.  How we use them, determines our success.

The Tools of Success
Date__________________ Name_________________



My goal is_________________________________________________

To reach my goal, I plan to take these steps:
1. _____________________________________________________________
2. _____________________________________________________________
3. ____________________________________________________________


These are people who can help me:
1. _____________________________________________________________
2. ____________________________________________________________
3. _____________________________________________________________


I must watch out for:
1. _____________________________________________________________
2. _____________________________________________________________
3. _____________________________________________________________

Time Line
I plan to achieve this goal by:
My reward for successfully achieving this goal will be:

I hope you enjoyed this tip. I did finally achieve my goal of running nonstop for 60 minutes.

To read more tips, strategies and advice earned through years of teaching on the front lines
check out my How To Make A Difference: Inspiring Students To Do Their Best eBook.

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To Your Teaching Success,

Marjan Glavac

‘Talk to each other, support each other, take care of each other.’
Stu Cunningham

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