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My 10 Goals for 2017

Blogging, Goal Setting, Teaching

Hey y’all! Anyone have any big plans for NYE? I’m posting today to publish my goals for the blog in 2017. I’m so thankful for all of you and your support these last 6-7 months and really, truly, appreciate every view/comment/like/follow in terms of things related to this blog. I’m hoping that by posting my goals and putting them “out there”, it will help hold me accountable to following through! So, here we go…

My Goals for 2017

(in no particular order)


1. Don’t Let the Perfect Be the Enemy of the Good
When I started this blog last summer, I had a lot more time on my hands than I do during the school year (obviously). Once the school year started, the blog was put on the back (very back) burner–not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because I felt that I didn’t really have time to commit to it. I didn’t want to be doing the blog “half way” or be stressed out about it because that takes the fun out of it all!

I was so worried about making sure that my posts were perfect (great content, lengthy, useful to a large group, etc.) that it took me a long time to put together a post. Like a long time. Not because I didn’t have anything to say, but because I would re-work it until I was 100% happy. Because of this habit, I stopped posting altogether and lost a lot of momentum. My goal for 2017 is to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good and to just hit PUBLISH 🙂
2. Don’t Compare Myself to Other Blogs

Just like with anything in life, if you compare yourself to others too much then you lose a part of yourself (especially with teaching). I’m not going to worry about blog statistics so much and again just continue to post what I can, when I can. I just started not quite a year ago and took many months off…I won’t have a couple thousand IG followers like some other teaching blogs out there and THAT. IS. OKAY. As long as I enjoy what I’m doing, then I should keep doing it 🙂 The other stuff will come, and I won’t lose my authenticity along the way trying to do something/be something/post something  that is not me.

3. Include More Content Geared Toward Specific Subject Areas
This is a BLOG FOR MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHERS! This is not just a blog for ELA teachers! I have a lot of ELA related posts I’m planning to write, but I need to make sure that I include relevant info and engaging posts that pertain to the other subjects as well. And that leads me into my next goal…

4. Reach Out to Get Guest Contributors
I don’t think I could write a post about science resources/something science related if my life depended on it (well, that may be a bit dramatic, but you get the idea…). That is not in my wheelhouse at all and that is okay. So, in order to fulfill goal #3, I will have to reach out to people to be guest contributors on the blog (want to be one? email me!)! That idea is exciting to me in general because I started this blog to be a place to collaborate and share ideas, but it is necessary if I truly want this to be a blog for all middle school teachers! Again, want to be a guest contributor? EMAIL ME!

5. STICK TO A CONTENT CALENDAR (for the love of God!)
I have a lot of ideas with what I want to do as far as creating new content, posting on social media sites, sending out newsletters, etc. but time creeps up on me and I just do it all at once when I have time to just “put it out there”. This is absolutely not best practice so I am going to stick to a content calendar this year! I have Hootsuite and all of that jazz, but I just have to remember to cue it all up 🙂 I’m currently working on an easy system to put my ideas in one place to actually execute this plan!

6. Post on Instagram 5x/Week

Who knew when I started this blog that Instagram was (is?) a wonderland for teacher bloggers. I have a personal Instagram account, but really started to follow and explore teacher-bloggers/TPT authors on Instagram and it has been amazing! Not only have I gotten awesome ideas from other teachers by following people I wouldn’t have “met” otherwise, I have really done a lot of hashtag research to help me navigate all of the awesome info! I’ve also noticed that a significant portion of my blog and TPT traffic is coming from my Link In Profile account from my Instagram account so it cannot be ignored! I want to post 5x/week on Instagram in order to stay consistent, and continue to meet more inspiring teachers online!

Sidenote: If you are not on Instagram for teaching stuff…you should be! It is much easier to navigate and less overwhelming than just randomly scrolling through Pinterest! (More on this topic soon!).

7. Post on Blog 2xMonth

Again, in thinking back to my 1st goal, I’m going to publish a lot more often and not worry about everything being perfect. I currently have 40+ blog post ideas in my “Drafts” and have already began creating the content calendar for it. I’m sure I will post a lot in spurts, and not so much when it gets busy, so I think that twice a month is definitely an attainable goal.

8. Twitter Chat 1x/Month
I know I just wrote about how I love Instagram but I LOVE Twitter. I love it to get news, keep up with friends, follow teaching stuff, etc. but I especially love it for the Twitter chats! My district currently has a chat on the 3rd Tuesday of each month (SHOUTOUT #JCPSchat) that I try to participate in, but I want to find another to begin participating in as well (anyone know of any great middle school chats?). Finding teacher friends who are equally engaged in this work and like to chat/write/collaborate about it is so inspiring to me and I always leave the chats I participate in feeling motivated.

9. Grow TPT Followers by 300
So,  I really want to work on creating products for TPT in order to grow my follower count. TPT followers can lead to selling more products/helping more teachers & students/engaging with more middle school teachers so this goal is really important! It is out of my comfort zone to attach a number to this goal, but I preach to my students that our goals must be measurable so for the sake of accountability…Like blog post ideas, I have a list of 50+ things I want to create for TeachersPayTeachers but have just not had the time. Some of it I have already created for my own classroom, but I need to “polish” it, or make sure I have all of the correct rights in order to post it to sell. It is hard to grow my TPT followers with a small number of products in my store. I’m currently working on a plan to try to grow my TPT follower list. In my opinion, getting TPT followers is hard because teachers have to find your store first and THEN actually like something enough to click follow!

10. Grow Email Subscribers by 500
When I first started this blog, I felt like I was doing a good job of getting email subscribers. That progress dwindled, though, when I took a break from posting. Almost every time I have sent out a newsletter (I haven’t sent out many, but will improve because of GOAL #5!) I have either sold product(s), received an email, or gotten some return out of engaging the subscribers. That list is super important to me because they are going to end up being some of the most loyal people to this whole endeavor! (Want to subscribe? Click here 🙂 ) I think growing my list by 500 may be a lofty goal, but I’m hoping that if I really work hard from January 1, I’ll be able to do it!

What did I miss? Any teacher bloggers/TPT authors out there with advice? I’d love to hear from any/all of you in the comments below or on Instagram!

How to Invest Students In Your Classroom’s Big Goals

Back to School, Featured, Goal Setting, investment, Teaching
 Hey, y’all!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted but as we are approaching Christmas Break, I wanted to share something that has been on my mind. While Christmas Break is obviously a time to recharge and enjoy time with family, it is always also a time where I reflect on the past semester in order to figure out what I should adjust in the spring semester. One thing I always reflect on is how close my students are in pursuit of our classroom big goals, and how invested they are in reaching them.

One of the things that I really focused on during my first year teaching was this idea. I was/am a firm believer that while I may be able to get up in front of the class and deliver great lessons, and have the students do the most engaging activities but if the kids weren’t invested in what we were doing and the reason behind it, then I wouldn’t get the best results consistently to really “move” students.

As I mentioned in my first back to school post, a big part of how I view teaching is shaped by my time as a Corps Member with Teach for America. The core values of the organization and their philosophy of “Teaching as Leadership” is the lens in which I view my own teaching practice. One of the tenets of the strategies discussed in Teaching as Leadership is about this very topic. I want to discuss investing students in how I understand it and want to think through this for my own classroom, and from the lens of being a middle school teacher.

I Can + I Want

Investing students in a real way in their own academic success is especially critical in schools that are working to close achievement gaps (most all!). According to Teaching as Leadership, to invest students, they have to believe that they “CAN” achieve, and they have to really “WANT” to achieve. Our job, as educators, is to make sure that we do what is in our power to make sure this is true for all students. Not only do teachers have to be on top of their game instructionally, but we have to make sure our classrooms are places that remove barriers that affect student achievement in order for kids to know they can achieve, and are inspired daily to want to to do so.

Now, before I move on, I want to be clear that I am talking only about what educators can control. We may not be able to change a student’s home life, situation he/she came from, or any outside factors that are affecting a student’s life, but we can control our classroom environment, and the culture of our classrooms. 

Classroom Environment

Most teachers I know at least somewhat enjoy decorating their classrooms (they may not enjoy the toll it takes on their bank accounts, but that’s another post!).  Creating a welcoming environment is definitely a first step in investing students in classroom big goals and their own learning, but it boils down to more than that. Having clear student expectations, procedures, routines and systems in place that hold all students to a high expectation is also especially important. All students, even some of the most challenging, need (and want!) to know how to operate in you classroom. Establishing accountability, and empowering students to be good decision makers and to understand they can contribute positively in a classroom is also essential in investing your students. To break it down…

From Teaching as Leadership:

To Create a Welcoming Environment: 

  • Have clear systems in place
  • Reinforce Expectations
  • Model and practice 
  • Hold Students Accountable When Expectations Aren’t Met

Classroom Culture of Achievement

For students to be invested in your classroom big goals, there has to be a culture of achievement in place to help foster that investment, as well as nurture it when obstacles arise. Students should understand that anything other than their best will not be accepted, but they should also not want to give you anything less than their best (again, remember that really investing your students = I CAN + I WANT). As the teacher, your attitude, consistency, the classroom environment, etc. can foster the I CAN in a student, but building the I WANT in a student can be a little more tricky.
To Create a Culture of Achievement: 
  • Communicate that effort leads to growth (or, growth mindset)
  • Convey that students benefit from achievement
  • Consistently reinforce effort in class
  • Invest stakeholders and role models of the student

Academic Content

Finally, to invest students in your big goals you have to ensure that you’re teaching TO your students, and not AT your students. This goes well beyond differentiating (buzz word!) and includes using learning goals and what you know about students to help get them to WANT to achieve. 

To help foster the I CAN + I WANT in students with you academic content:

  • Communicate why it matters (relevance)
  • Teach to fit your students’ needs
  • Give students choice
  • Design real-world assignments/projects
Again, investing students in your classroom big goals is an on-going process. AS teachers, we have to work intentionally every. single. day to build the I CAN and the I WANT in each of our students. While this may come easy to some, for most it will require constant reflection and adjustments in teaching practice. 
Investing students in my classroom big goals is important to me because it is why I show up to work every day. I want my students to reach the goals we decided upon at the beginning of the year, so I have to do what I can in order to move them to do so. This blog post is not sponsored by Teaching as Leadership, or Teach for America, but as I said above, this is the lens in which I view my teaching practice and I believe is all extremely relevant and actionable stuff. If you’re interested in learning more about the Teaching as Leadership model and/or want to see where you fall on the rubrics for each category check it out here
What do you think? Let me know in the comments, or find me on Instagram @kelseynhayesblog!
Want to read more about setting big goals for your students? Check out this post!

Back to School: Setting Big Goals for Student Achievement in Your Classroom

Back to School, Featured, Goal Setting, Teaching

Hey, y’all!

I cannot believe it is July 19th! Seriously, it feels like the month of July has flown by. My first day of school with students is August 10th,  the official opening day for teachers is August 8th, and we also have “retreats” before that with some PDs at school. My summer is winding down quickly and I am in full back to school mode.

Last week, I was at training all week and had significant time to connect with other teachers. I had already made a list for a “Back to School” series I had planned on blogging about, but I was able to connect with a teacher who just finished her 1st year, and a teacher who is about to begin her 1st year which changed my plans a little bit! After talking with them it got me thinking about my first year experience, what I learned that was helpful (and not so helpful!), and what I still do today to “get ready” for my students. In the next few posts, I’m going to incorporate all of that in with my Back to School posts! I’ll be talking goal setting, behavior/investment plans, reflection (teacher and student), procedures, first days of school, etc. and hope that you’ll join in too!

Before I start, I want to explain a bit about my first year of teaching. I did not go to school to be a teacher (gasp!). I was a Political Science major who made my way to teaching through the Teach for America program. I became a teacher officially through Texas’ and my district’s Alternative Certification Program, and unofficially through much trial and error, support, and coaching. Part of how I view education and the practice of teaching is shaped by my time in Teach for America and by the core values and teaching practices that I learned with that organization. Some of what I’m going to talk about and reflect on in my Back to School posts are pillars of the TFA organization, and I want to communicate them as I think through them for my own classroom. If you want to read more about closing achievement gaps, or teacher effectiveness (with real world applications!), then I highly recommend Teaching As Leadership: The Highly Effective Teacher’s Guide to Closing the Achievement Gap* (affiliate link*). Now, back to it…

Today, I want to start with talking about How to Set Big Goals In Your Classroom. 
With many things in life, if you don’t know where you’re going then you’re most likely not going to get there. This could not be more true with teaching. The best lessons, the best intentions, and the best classroom environment can only get you so far during a school year,  especially if they are not in pursuit of your overall, end-of-year goals.

What  I mean by “Big Goals”:

“Big Goals” are the academic, and personal goals you want your students to accomplish this year, particularly, by the end of the school year.  You can set individual “big goals” with students, but having whole class big goals is a rallying point that can help focus your class all year. Your goals should be ambitious, but feasible, and able to be measured somehow (more on that in a bit…).

I set my initial big goals in the summer, even before I meet my students. After looking at historical data, I can at least have an idea of where the bar should be set in order to really push my students. This allows me to begin investing my students from day 1, and I can adjust the goals after they take their diagnostic assessment.

Why you need to set “Big Goals”:

Like I mentioned above, you can’t get somewhere, if you don’t know where you’re going.
Period. Yes, teachers can teach content until they’re blue in the face,  or teach to “pass a test” but they have to have outlined in their own minds exactly what it is they want their students to be able to do overall, so they can plan the steps, and properly prioritize how to get each student there.

Also, if you happen to teach students who are academically behind, this is maybe even more important! Their growth goals and academic benchmarks are the same as other students traditionally with this era of state testing, so there is more work to be done in order to close achievement gaps and to catch them up. Using “big goals” in the classroom not only help the teacher, but also the students conceptualize where they’re headed, and can make learning feel more manageable for students who may have not been typically as successful in school. 

How to do it:

  • Set Your Initial Vision and Goals: First, you need to outline your vision for your classroom. What do you want your students to know, and learn, both academically and personally? Why are those specific goals important? Like I mentioned above, you need to set your initial big goals for your classroom based off historical data for your incoming students and what you know about your school community and the general backgrounds of your students. You should outline the goal, why that goal is important and how progress will be measured throughout the year (and why). Again, they should be feasible but ambitious. Don’t be afraid to dream big. This, paired with how you decide to invest kids in your class goals (more on that soon), can be very motivating for students!
  • Give a Diagnostic Assessment: Giving a diagnostic assessment, or “pre-test”, is extremely important in order for you to gauge where your kids are academically. After you analyze the diagnostic results, you can adjust your big goals if necessary. Your diagnostic assessment should be aligned to your end of year assessment(s), is better if it is a recognized test (like a released state exam, or something that has been validated) and should have enough questions/opportunities for students to demonstrate their current understanding of standards (goal is about 5 questions each).
  • Tracking: Once you understand where your kids are after giving the diagnostic assessment, and you know exactly where you want them to be at the end of they year, you need to ensure that you and your students have a meaningful, effective way to track progress throughout the year. The students should understand in a real way where they are in pursuit of the big goal, and you will be better prepared to get all students to the goal if you have a system in place that you can keep up with in tracking data (for yourself, and with the students).
  • Talk About It: Once you have your goals outlined and you understand exactly what student success will look like in your classroom, then it is important that you remember to communicate it with your students! In a later post, I will discuss investing your kids in the class goals, but on a basic level, you need to make sure that early on your class goals are known. In my class, I always put the goals on a big bright poster in the classroom surrounded by the kids’ personal goals that they set on the 1st days of school. I try to reference the goals very often, if not daily. The poster stays up all year round and the students do reflection exercises on where they are in relation to their goals and our class goals (more on that soon!).

What makes good “Big Goals” (Examples):

A good goal is one that can be measured, will require significant work by all students, is ambitious and is rooted in data. You need to decide if success in your classroom will based off growth, overall mastery, or both.
  • All students will average 80% on all standards learning goals 
    • This goal can be measured, is ambitious, but feasible and holds all kids to a high standard. This is a mastery goal. 
  • Students will grow by 2 years according to their Lexile level 
    • This goal can be measured, is ambitious, but feasible and holds all kids to a high standard. This is a growth goal.
  • All students will apply to a magnet program for high school 
    • This goal can be measured, is ambitious, but feasible and holds all kids to a high standard. This is also a “personal” goal. 
Setting big goals for your students not only gives you and all of your students a roadmap for success for the entire year, but it shows all kids that you hold them to high academic standards and know/expect that they all can achieve. 
Do you already do this in your classroom? What are some of your big class goals? What is your process? Let me know in the comments, via email, or on Twitter

This is post 1 in the Back to School Series. To see post two click here

p.s Want to start a teacher blog like this one? My friend, Suzi, wrote an ebook that can help you get started and grow your blog!