Intentionality is defined as the act of being deliberate or purposive. It is a mental state that directs thoughts, actions, beliefs, and hopes toward a certain 'state of affairs'. Teaching with intentionality is thoughtful, it is reflective, and it focuses on purpose.
Teaching inclusively requires you to teach with intention. In order to ensure you are targeting (or trying to target) your 7-10 students (and everyone in between), preparation is key. You need to plan, you need to think, and you need to hook your students. Just like preparation is key, so is failure. Failure in your lessons, failure in your preparation, and failure in your attempts gives you experience and knowledge from which you can draw when teaching with intention. Remember, the intentionality of teaching requires thought, reflection, and purpose
I am not advocating for increasing stress, extra work, or changing your role. I am advocating for teaching with intention. Another area that advocates practicing with intention is yoga. Why? In yoga intentions are set so that we empower ourselves to make positive change in ourselves while practicing. The aim is that the change translates to other aspects of our lives. In teaching, our intentions are set to make changes in our lives that translate over to the success of our students.
Teaching inclusively does not just happen. It is a practice that requires honing. The more experiences we encounter, the more reflection we undertake, and the more goals we set, the more we will see our practice improve (our confidence increase). I have written a lot about implicit bias and the affect it has on our teaching. 'You only know what you know' is a common phrase people say to excuse missed opportunities or mistakes- it is true, you cannot be blamed for what you do not know. However, when teaching with intention the phrase looks more like 'you only know what you know until you open your eyes and your ears to new knowledge'. Whether you consciously understand your decisions or not, they are often guided by our beliefs, experiences, and understanding- in other words, our bias shapes our actions. The intentionality of teaching requires us to acknowledge and confront our bias so that we can better understand our decisions and our knowledge. When teaching, we need to understand the purpose of our lessons for our students: WHAT DO I WANT THEM TO GET OUT OF THE LESSON (most students it will be something very clear, however, other students it might be a focus on attending skills or social skills or it might be an enrichment task). We also need to set the intention: HOW DO I WANT THE STUDENTS TO LEARN THE PURPOSE OF THE LESSON? & HOW DO I WANT THE STUDENTS TO DEMONSTRATE THEY UNDERSTAND OR ARE STARTING TO UNDERSTAND THE PURPOSE?
How can you open your eyes and your ears to new knowledge?
1. Set Goals: Small goals are awesome! I love to keep a weekly goal or two, this helps me achieve almost immediate success. Sometimes my goals are just about including a student more in a certain aspect of school life, other times, it is about getting adaptations created and uploaded. Goals are individual and set by you! Not only are small goals good, but I keep larger goals and annual goals too. I want my small goals to help me achieve my larger goals- goals work better when they are connected to where you are going I am intentional in my goal setting. Check out our awesome resource, GOAL TRACKING, to help you set and track goals easily. Some of us are great at it, some of us need help- this guide is for those who need help with tracking and/or with organization.
2. Reflect Often: Reflect on what you know, why you know what you know, and what you want to know. Reflection is necessary in teaching with intention. Change and growth do not happen without it. Keep a journal, think while you run, or just sit in silence- whatever you do, make sure you add reflection to your day. 5 minutes or 55 minutes- whatever works for you, but you need time to process your day or your plan. You need to give yourself time to clear your head and to think. For me, I run without music. I think while I run and I reflect on my week or my day. I use this time for me and my growth. Often, I come home from a run with clarity, peace, and ready to prepare or plan (or maybe just a few thoughts I do not want to forget).
3. Prepare: As a teacher, you know your students. Use this knowledge when you plan. Set a purpose for the lesson for all your students. Some students will have the same lesson outcomes, but not all. Make sure you set a purpose for each student. I want X to pass our the paper and sit for 5 minutes. I want Y to complete the task plus expand on their thought process. Make sure it is clear to you what you expect your students to do each week, each day, or each lesson. Small or big, you need to prepare for all your students.
4. Be Okay With Failure: You will make so many mistakes. You will plan and prep and fail- THIS IS AWESOME!!!! Gawd, the amount of lessons I have learned from f*^#ing up is crazy. These are all experiences from which I draw from consistently. I plan for lessons, I make sure I prepare for all my kiddos and then something goes wrong- someone has a tantrum and throws a chair, sometimes kiddos take off, other times, I just seem to be speaking alien. Whatever the reason my planning failed does not matter, I cannot go back in time. However, I can reflect (see #2) on what happened and what I try next time. Maybe I don't know what happened or what to do, but I don't forget about this failure- clarity always comes around.... sometimes at midnight, but it always comes in a learned lesson.
5. Flexibility Is Key: Teaching with intention does not mean you cannot go with the flow. It is quite the opposite. Teaching with intention gives you the confidence to stop something that is not working and change gears with confidence. The intentionality of teaching focuses on being deliberate and purposeful. When a lesson is not working. STOP. Keep the purpose of the lesson at heart, and change the approach.
In Yoga, you set your intention for you practice before starting. You do this so you have focus and simplicity during your class. You want to change. You want to grow and your want to develop. You do not set out to make every pose perfectly, but you set an intention that is achievable and relevant to you during that class. In teaching, you set your intention for the week or for each lesson to help you achieve your big picture goals. Today I want to make sure ....... or this week, I will .......... . Intentionality requires purpose & focus. You need to reflect on what works and what does not- and be okay with what does not work. This becomes your bag of tricks from which you can pull when faced with new challenges or new situations. The intentionality of teaching helps you to make sure you are consciously supporting all your students.
Change is not easy in the beginning. It takes time and it takes brain power- and will! BUT, once you start to implement the change consistently, you will start to see some changes in your practice and in your students' learning. You will gain confidence, you will have success. Your workload will decrease- planning with purpose and intention will make teaching easier.
Never be afraid to ask for help: help in the beginning, the middle, or somewhere else is ok!!!
Stick with it- YOU GOT THIS!!!