Planning your Semester/Year


A student walkout is a great place to start, but it’s important to spend time thinking about what your group wants to accomplish over the course of a year. Start with your long term goals and then work to determine the strategy and tactics that will get you to your goals.

Determine your long term goal. What does your group want to accomplish by the end of this school year? What is the change you want to see -- in your school, in your community or in your state? Chances are, you’ll need to have a couple conversations with your group about this. This should be aspirational, yet attainable. For example, more student representation on your local school board or more funding for after-school programs.

Work through your strategy. Once you’ve set a goal, it’s time to figure out how to achieve it. Your strategy is simply how you’re going to accomplish your goal. Once you’ve determined a strategy, the tactics that you choose to use will flow from that.

There are often many different ways you can think about your strategy. This can be launching a pressure campaign to get your school administration to do something, developing an education campaign to let other students know more about how an issue impacts them, creating a media campaign to bring issues to prominence in your community and many more.  

Brainstorm your tactics. Tactics are the specific actions you will take to achieve your goal. Tactics should always flow from strategy; otherwise, they risk wasting your time or even undermining your cause. Start by listing out all the possible tactics here. Get creative! Chances are some of them won’t work out, but get all your ideas on paper so you can pick from the best ones. With your group, think about how many tactics you can realistically get through in the school year. For some groups, this may be one or two while for others it may be once a week. Tactics can also range from a lot of planning (like a big rally) to something that takes less time (phone calls).

Develop a campaign plan. Once you’ve taken the time brainstorm what tactics your group is considering and how many you can realistically do, circle the top tactics that will fit your strategy and achieve your goal. Then, outline the timeline for your tactics. If you’re doing one a month for the last three months of the school year, start with a tactic that can bring attention to your campaign and conclude with the tactic that will take the most build up and bring the greatest attention to your campaign.

Chances are, your group will have many different goals you want to accomplish. That’s great! Take time to think about what is the big change you want to see in the world and then break it down into smaller bites. What can your group accomplish over the course of the year or the semester? What short term goals does your group need to accomplish in the next month or week to achieve that longer term goal?

Using this ‘goals, strategy and tactics’ framework, you can make real change in your schools, communities, states and in the country. It just takes forward planning, commitment to executing those plans and a lot of heart!  

Caroline Kavit