Classroom Culture: “Pulling” Toward Your Goals

Have you ever experienced a desire to accomplish something tremendous?  It’s a feeling I can relate to! To continue the September theme of “What are they Pulling?” I want to talk about goal setting and tracking.

2024 Iditarod mushers have varied goals about the upcoming race. Canadian musher Rob Cooke says, “The goal is to run the race with a whole team that have not previously finished Iditarod, show them the trail and have fun whilst remembering the dogs from the kennel that have gone before.” Veteran musher Jeff Deeter’s bio states, “Jeff is looking to best his previous 12th-place finish from 2021.”  Sometimes the goal is a long time in the making!  Josi Thyr says, “I’m very excited to be on my way to completing a twenty-year dream!”  

Cain Carter’s Vet Book is securely attached to his sled. Photo: Terrie Hanke

A “vet book,” such as the one pictured here, is how veterinarians and mushers track the condition and performance of their dogs during the Iditarod. This little notebook is mandatory gear. Just like mushers, students have a mandatory Leadership Binder to use for their goals, provided by the local Seabrook Rotary Club.  Our district uses The Leader in Me™ program, based on Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The program gives us resources to teach students about why goal setting is important.  Every Wednesday, each student in every class reviews their goals. 

Here are some examples of goals that students are working on: A first grader told me, “I have to do five Dream Box lessons but then I do 2 more each week.”  “I am working to master my multiplication facts,” said a fifth grader. A girl in my class told me, “I am proud because I am getting eight Dream Box lessons every single week.”  Dream Box is the personalized learning math program that supplements instruction. 

The Iditarod map and checkpoint list is a great starting point for tracking goals!  Have younger students color in a circle on the map. High school students can write a brief reflection for each “checkpoint of learning” they complete.  I love to use the Checkpoints for my IditaREAD challenge, which I’ll talk more about when it gets closer.

The other day I had a long discussion with my fifth-grade class about what our class goal should be. I use dog-themed jars and dog biscuits rather than marble jars! This year, each time students pack up efficiently at the end of the day, we get to enjoy a reward, like extra recess.  It’s really fun to watch those jars fill up! The important thing is that my students are building a shared identity as well as developing shared responsibility.  

Dog treat goal jars for my homeroom and switch classes. Photo: K. Newmyer

Do you have a great idea for helping students track their goals? Email me at