I don't follow New Year's resolutions. I always make them. They usually involve un-original ideas like eating healthy or working out and then about three days in I am scarfing down chocolate left around my school (no thanks to those who feel it is their duty to leave chocolate in cute little bowls near Gretchen's desk) and skipping my workout.
But this year, I am going to go about things differently all because of a podcast episode I recently heard. If you have read our blog before, you might know that Gretchen and I are huge fans of the Happier podcast with sisters, Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft. Recently, they discussed setting a one word intention for the year. They threw around fun ideas like "Home" and "Repurpose." I absolutely love this idea and intend to put a new twist on it -- I am going to choose a one word intention for my teaching practice and use it to guide me through the rest of the year. So goodbye to the resolutions that I never keep and hello to a simple intention that can guide me and my students forward.
Why set a teaching intention?
Having one word to guide you can help you when it comes to decision making. We teachers are all so busy that it can be hard to prioritize. We can get lost in the maze of new tech, professional development, data, and emails. If you set an intention for your teaching practice you can say yes to the stuff that supports it and try not to get distracted by the stuff that doesn't. Actors refer to this idea as a throughline. What is it that the character really wants? We can treat our teaching lives the same way - what do we really want to get out of teaching and how?
I sometimes feel that I am trying to integrate too many new ideas at once and as a result, I don't do them as effectively as I would like. An intention can keep you grounded. Moreover, we all know that teaching requires us to put so many other people first -- our students, their parents, that sometimes we lose sight of ourselves. A teaching intention is a perfect way to stay true to ourselves so that we can continue to grow professionally. This can prevent us from burn out -- one of the greatest obstacles teachers face. By setting an intention that is true to you, you are helping to ensure that you stay fresh and energized, and that's good not only for you but for every child that walks into your classroom.
Keep it positive
As Gretchen Rubin explained in the podcast, these intentions are far more likely to be successful if they are positive. No one wants to focus on something negative like "Calm down" or "Stop stressing" Even if your idea is to calm down, say it in a way that affirms you rather than chides your inner-teacher. So perhaps, reframing calm down to "calm" or even better, to "tranquility" makes a difference in our desire to fulfill this intention. Bottom line, you want to pick a teaching intention that builds you up.
Ideas for teaching intentions
The possibilities are endless when it comes to teaching intentions -- things that pop into my mind are collaboration, technology, flexibility, student centered, literacy, coding, blogging, service, advocacy and growth-mindset. For example, if I chose collaboration, I could take that to mean setting up a classroom that promotes collaboration through seating and designing lessons that ensure student collaboration. At the same time, maybe collaboration means committing to working closely on a weekly basis with certain teachers inside my building or online to share ideas and practices. Collaboration could mean commiting to participating in educator Twitter chats or attending a few conferences to meet new people and colloborate with them by sharing ideas. Chances are that once you set an intention you'll find new ways to follow it.
Intentions have to be true to you
No one can choose your teaching intention for you. It has to be your own or it won't mean anything. Teachers already have too many top down mandates. We are told what to teach and often how to teach it. Intentions have to be different. They have to be organic and they have to be something that makes you feel better about your work. If you don't like your intention, you won't stick with it.
My intention and my start date
I think starting back after Winter Break is the perfect time for a new teaching intention. My intention is "student centered." I've already set up a room that promotes collaboration through flexible seating, but I want to continue to work to make sure that when my students are with me, they they are the ones who are primarily doing the thinking, working, talking, and collborating. It's about them, not me. I am there to facilitate THEIR learning rather than acting as though they are an audience for MY teaching. I can't wait to see where this intention takes us. Also, because I am a visual learner, I am going to post a few reminders in my room to keep things student centered.
Share it far and wide
Lastly, I hope you will share your intention with others. I plan on telling my students about my intention and encouraging them to set an intention for the rest of the school year. I think it is so important for our students and colleagues to see us acknowledging that we are all works in progress - striving to continue to grow and learn, even in adulthood.
Happy New Year to all our readers and if you have a teaching intention, please share it. We'd love to hear from you!
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