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Creating a Personalized Vision for Yourself

Jordan Catapano

During an interview for a teaching job I was once asked, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I thought it was an easy one amongst the plethora of possible teacher interview questions, and without much consideration I said, “Hopefully teaching here! But of course as a much better teacher than I’d start out as.”

I think they liked the answer because we moved on. But this particular choice among possible teacher interview questions has stuck with me for some reason. Now, as I think of my teaching (being now fortunate enough to get that job and be there more than five years!) I still ask myself that question: “Where do I see myself in ____ years?” What kind of teacher will I be like in ten years, in five, in two, or even by the end of this school year?

The truth is that I’ve learned a lot about teaching, and about myself, during my years as a teacher so far. However, I absolutely feel like I still have lots of areas in which I can improve. As a teacher, it is my responsibility to make sure that I am getting better with each passing year. How tragic would it be if I repeated my mistakes again and again for succeeding classes of students? And if improvement is what I demand of my students, shouldn’t I at least demand it of myself as well?

This is why it is important to have our very own personalized vision for ourselves. Without some kind of direction to move toward, we stand still. Without some improved version of ourselves waiting for us in the future, we stagnate. So I decided several years ago to keep asking myself the question, “Where do I see myself?”

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Here are some simple, effective steps you can follow to help create your own personalized vision plan for how you’d like to improve as an educator in the years to come:

1. You need to do a lot of question asking. Start with answering these three main questions:

  • “Where do I see myself in 10 years?"
  • “Where do I see myself in 5 years?”
  • “Where do I see myself by the end of this year?”

The order is important here. If you can answer all three of these questions, then it helps to give vision and shape to your trajectory as an educator. Naturally, your answer to (c) should be related to helping you ultimately fulfill your answer to (b), which leads to you fulfilling your answer to (a).

2. After you decide on your big-picture kinds of questions, it’s important to start focusing on where you’re at now. Below is a series of questions you should consider. Don’t feel like you need to answer them all, but definitely take time to think through the questions that seem most relevant to your situation.

  • Where do I see myself needing to improve as an educator?
  • What would others say is an area I need to improve in?
  • What timeframe am I looking at? How long will this particular aspect of my teaching be a goal of mine?
  • What kinds of things do I need to implement to improve?
  • What resources should I study?
  • What kinds of progress of my students should I keep track of?
  • Whose feedback and advice should I try to obtain?
  • Whose teaching can I observe?
  • What if I fail?
  • Do I need to join any organizations?
  • What should I do in my spare time to sharpen my skills in this area?
  • What steps can I create for myself to achieve my goal?
  • How does this goal fit into my overall goals as an educator?
  • Does this goal serve myself, my students, my colleagues, or all three?
  • Who inspires me? What kinds of people should I surround myself with?

The key ingredient to improvement is self-reflection. Take the time during the school year and throughout the summer to focus on this essential element of your success. Visualize for yourself who you are and who you want to be.

3. Make a concrete goal for yourself and write it down. After taking the time to think, reflect, study, learn and identify your goals, you need to take action. And action is never more certain to lead to success than when a clear goal with the steps to achieve that goal are identified and rehearsed.

  • Write down your short-term goal (keeping in mind, of course, that this is meant to lead into your more long-term goals).
  • Write down the exact steps and timelines needed to help you progress towards achieving that goal.
  • Put your goal and steps in an easily viewable spot that you’ll see (mine is on my desk in our English office). Then read this to yourself twice a day; once in the morning, and once later on in the afternoon or evening.

Also, improvement often does not occur when you’re working on your own. Enlist the help of trusted colleagues, friends, spouses and mentors to help keep you accountable for your personal objectives. When we let ourselves down we make excuses and get over it, but it’s much more difficult for us to let someone else down!

So don’t wait for some evaluation process, reprimand, student problem, or test score to tell you to improve. Don’t wait for five, 10, or 20 years to expire while you’re in first gear. Demand excellence of yourself, and continually set, work toward, and achieve goals that will accelerate you to higher levels of mastery!

What goals have you set for yourself? Do you find that it’s easy or challenging to work towards your own goals? Share your reflections in the comments below!