Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Setting Goals

There is a part in the story of Alice In Wonderland at which Alice has come to a fork in the road. The Cheshire cat appears and Alice asks, “Which way should I go?” The cat asks, “Where do you want to end up?” and Alice responds that she doesn’t know. The cat then remarks, “It won’t matter then which road you take.” This exchange is a snapshot for our own lives. If we don’t know where we want to end up, then how will we know where we are going, whether or not we are making appropriate progress, and how to troubleshoot along the way.

Goals which clearly state what you are trying to accomplish will provide you with the destination. Let me give you an example. Let’s say that you want to go to Sacramento, California (obviously is you live in Sacramento you will want to select another location). There are a lot of different ways to get to Sacramento—you can go by car, bus, bike, train, or plane, and maybe even by boat, but in the end, if you are going to Sacramento, you will ultimately arrive in Sacramento. We need to be that clear about what we want to accomplish in running an afterschool program. What is it that you want to accomplish? At the end of the school year, where do you want to be, what do you want to know that you have accomplished?

A goal is a clear expectation that you can measure and accomplish within an identified time frame. For example, in my personal life I may want to know at the end of one year that I have read 12 books. So my goal would be written: Read 12 books before December 31, 2010. If last year I read 12 books and I wanted to read more books in the coming year, then I might say, “Increase the number of books read by 50% in the 2011 calendar year.” Now this goal means that I must read 18 books in the 2011 calendar year. If this were my goal I would calendar it out and know that I needed to read a book and a half each month.

When you think about your program this year, what are the goals that you might want to set? Do you have attendance goals? Improved academic achievement goals? Number of youth-led projects goals? Number of staff prepared for a promotion goals? All of these would make sense if they fit into the mission and vision of your program. When you are setting your goals for 2010-11, be sure that they are measurable, that you have clear benchmarks on the way, and that you are sharing your goals with everyone who is a stakeholder in your program.

Be careful about setting too many goals. In any year, 1-3 goals is more than sufficient. Be careful that you set a goal, not a task for your to do list. Good luck setting a goal or two that will move your after-school program forward.

Check out our Online Instruction videos: Site Coordinator Mini “Goal Setting” with Debra Horton, to get more support with setting goals and actualizing them so you are successful in accomplishing them. Take a look at what we have to offer at www.consultfourkids.com

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