Introducing Goal-Setting Conferences at OJCS

[General Note: It still feels awkward pivoting towards “normal” school conversations when the situation in Israel rages on and we are all still carrying varying degrees of anxiety, pain and sadness about what has happened and what still may be yet to come.  However, part of how we create psychological safety is by carrying forward with as much normalcy as feels appropriate and respectful.  And so it is in that spirit that I share framing thoughts about this year’s inaugural “Goal-Setting Conferences”.]

[OJCS Parent Note: Yes, you got a much more detailed version of this via email earlier this week.  Feel free to read this edited version for additional clarity…or…please read this edited version if you feel asleep halfway through the email.]

In June of last year, I blogged out the rationale for us shifting from “trimester” to “semester” and in that post, I shared the following:
We love the idea of bringing parents (and possibly students) together in late October-early November to share the goal-setting that we have done with our students.  It is a great opportunity to strengthen and clarify the school-family partnership, to personalize the learning, to build in student accountability and to set students up for success.
And so we shall.
One of the “7 Habits” that anchors a lot of the work in our school is “Begin with the End in Mind” and one of our North Stars is “We Own Our Learning”.  There is a lot of research about the importance of students of all ages learning how to set goals and learning how to create plans to achieve those goals.  Here is an article from this past January that I think frames it well.  One takeaway from the article is that,
Students are people too, and like all people, they benefit from having goals. Learning goals, much like life goals, can help students in a number of ways.
Here is a brief summary of those ways:
  • They help students stay focused.
  • They help students measure their progress.
  • They help make students accountable for their learning.
  • They help to motivate students.
Another article on goal-setting that I really like adds a few more critical points about the benefits of goal-setting on students of all ages:
  • Set a clear path to success.
  • Learn time management and preparedness.
  • Boost self-confidence.
  • Provide challenges.
For all these reasons and more we believe that the time we are spending teaching our children – again, I keep emphasizing at every grade-level because this can be, and is, for students of every grade – what “goals” are, how to set them and make a plan for success, how to measure progress, how to reflect on the learning journey, etc..  It is time well-invested to set our children up to not only do their best in school, but in life.  As parents will see, goals are not only limited to academics, but to all aspects of schooling (art, music, PE, etc.) and life (friendships, self-control, positive mindset, etc.).
Things are already happening and things are set to launch.  Teachers have already begun teaching in developmentally appropriate ways what “goals” are, why they work and how to use them.  Teachers have also begun meeting individually with students to set goals for this year.  Parents are receiving information from teachers with more details about how all of this is working at different children’s grade-levels, and how parents can also contribute by both discussing goals at home and by coming to “Goal-Setting Conferences” with goals that they have for their children.
This pilot is strongly encouraging that parents bring children to school for these conferences.  We’ve finessed the timing and the team nature to allow this to be comfortable and doable at each grade-level.  We will have teachers and support on-site so that parents have a supervised landing slot for siblings.  We also understand that there could be conversations that a parent would prefer to have without their child present and thereto, the supervised locations can come into service.  We additionally understand that virtual conferences were helpful for some families and will continue to offer them, although hoping they will be restricted to just those who could not otherwise participate.  (And even there we encourage student participation.)
We are very much looking forward to this parent engagement opportunity.  Now, more than ever, we feel the value of the strength of our community.  We are partners with parents on the journey of children’s lives while at OJCS and we feel the weight and the joy of that now, more than ever.

Author: Jon Mitzmacher

Dr. Jon Mitzmacher is the Head of the Ottawa Jewish Community School. Jon is studying to be a rabbi at the Academy for Jewish Religion and is on the faculty of the Day School Leadership Training Institute (DSLTI) as a mentor. He was most recently the VP of Innovation for Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools.  He is the former Executive Director of the Schechter Day School Network.  He is also the former head of the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School, a K-8 Solomon Schechter, located in Jacksonville, FL, and part of the Jacksonville Jewish Center.  He was the founding head of the Solomon Schechter Day School of Las Vegas.  Jon has worked in all aspects of Jewish Education from camping to congregations and everything in between.