The Parent’s Notebook

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By Aminisha Black
Goals Still Work
I’ve been noticing that issues don’t seem to get resolved.  Being an issue-oriented society, issues are constantly being raised, debated, given news coverage and protested.   But are we moving forward or keeping busy but getting nowhere? 
Looking over notes from a sensitivity training held with middle school teachers in 1992, I was impressed by the collective goals they shared.  Among them was to have fully functional, literate students; to have students gain a sense of self-worth, appreciate themselves, appreciate differences and appreciate all living things; to teach success through teamwork; to develop appropriate social attitudes; to teach students to take more responsibility for their actions; to have students feel secure about themselves – have self- control; to convey to students a sense of morality, generosity and a value system.  To bring a maternal/paternal presence as well as a teacher presence. 
Reading these today, the goals are still relevant and while educators generated them, these should be the goals of parents as well.  Goals give direction, focus and meaning to our lives.  They keep us on purpose and allow for a means to evaluate progress and register an ongoing sense of accomplishment.   I was recently reminded of the importance of writing goals and reviewing them on a regular basis.  While I have been writing goals for years, I must admit that after posting them on a bulletin board I rarely looked at them.   How many of us who are parents, teachers or care providers have specific written goals for our interactions with young people?
At a later session of the 1992 training, teachers were asked to share what they saw as obstacles to accomplishing the prior stated goals.  I read the 1992 obstacles to current teachers in Middle Schools to see if they experienced these obstacles today.  Out of the 16 cited in 1992, today’s teachers said that 15 of those still existed.
Obstacles included: class sizes too large for the one-on-one instruction required in some classes, shortage of materials and state-of-the-art equipment, need to integrate minor subjects with majors, teaching in isolation – lack of collaboration among teachers, unmotivated students, discipline problems which reduce amount of time spent on class work, need for culturally conscious materials, need for teachers to have profiles of students in class (in cases where circumstances are unusual), students coming to school unprepared, lack of quality teacher development, culture shock – coming from places where teachers are respected, need for acknowledgement and appreciation of one another and teachers receive no training in discipline or class management for  handling large classes.
One of today’s teachers shared that professional development is nonexistent in the areas of class management, instead focuses on instruction.  The rationale for this is if there is quality instruction, there will be no behavioral problems.  This warrants further research to see if the professional development in instruction is accommodating different learning styles.  We must not forget the multiple intelligence theory missing from our educational system because the goal of discovering our children’s genius guides us.
 We know that some issues vary from school to school, district to district and region to region.  However, the fact that so many of the issues stated by teachers in 1992 are still issues 13 years later points to some changes needed in the way we do things.
I suggest we start with doing some soul-searching and come up with a different way of doing things.  After all, to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different results has been labeled insanity.
Setting, writing and reviewing goals will probably go a long way towards resolving issues.  Issues have a way of arousing anger, much of which is probably from some other confrontation and another unresolved issue.  With the drama and venting taking center stage, goals just might get overlooked.  After all, goals have a different energy than accusations, demands and defenses, a bit difficult to combine them in the same setting.
Goals aren’t limited to schools or places of employment.  As parents, we need to establish goals in all areas of our lives: raising our children, our relationships, our work, our health, our spiritual growth.  Without goals, there’s no way of measuring progress, leaving us with uncertainty and without a sense of fulfillment.  We need a sense of fulfillment in order to pass it along to the future generations.