Is Your Teaching Intentional?

By Machelle Rogers

I always thought I understood what intentional teaching was, though I knew I wasn’t very good at being consistent.  I guess that as I continued on in my teaching, trying to be consistent and keep a routine, I was becoming less and less intentional.

Having said that, I have attended conferences, read current research and attended professional development of all sorts trying to do what I could to improve my teaching to update the skills “learned” from each of those areas.  Some of this learning has become part of my repertoire, but now I understand that even this has not really been intentional teaching.

Several incidents at school and home made me reflect more deeply on how I do things.  Within two days, we had a kindergarten child “disappear” at the end of day (an ex-husband not communicating), a front sign pole knocked askew by a distracted parent and a backpack caught in a door dragging a second grader more than 300 feet- unbeknownst to her mother. In addition, while dressing my elderly father, I put his shoes on the wrong feet (he didn’t even notice until late in the evening).

In the resulting conversations, many wondered how these kinds of things could happen or how easy it is to become distracted or fall into routines (dressing my dad) that we forget to pay attention to what we are doing. I have thought about how many times I would drive to or from someplace, arrive at my destination, surprised that I was already there, and wonder how I had arrived there.  

My thoughts turned to the mom who didn’t realize that her daughter’s coat had gotten caught in the door and drove through the parking lot dragging that daughter.  A pregnant teacher, on duty, was finally able to catch her attention and then everyone fell apart with the emotion of it all. The mom was totally distraught, as was the teacher who knew the mom and daughter.

A light dawned and I began to think about how many places I am less than intentional (not always, but enough to cause a deeper reflection of practice) -in relationships, in care of self, in care of others, in so many areas,and then I thought about teaching. I realized that perhaps the careful design and purpose of my lessons had become lost in my routine.

I thought about how I felt when I arrived someplace without knowing how I got there and wondered where that feeling was in my teaching.  I thought about how it feels when I intentionally plan a lesson and activity- and more importantly, how the students react to that intentionality.  I wondered how to bring that back.

And I wondered if I felt as distraught about that loss of focus as much as the mother and teacher did. I worried about how that loss affected the learning in my classroom and whether I had the ability to be on target and intentional all the time or not.

I will admit that sometimes it is much easier to “punt with a purpose,” as our Gifted Talented specialist used to tell us, than to think through every lesson carefully and with purpose. However, maybe that is exactly what I need to bring a stronger sense of passion and accomplishment to the classroom-maybe that is what the students need today.

Maybe there is a way to keep the routine of a day and still think and teach intentionally. Can intentional teaching be routine?  Or is it, by design, something that is more…. intentional? Is it possible? I don’t know if it can happen every day or every lesson, but I know that by designing a lesson with greater purpose and intentionally teaching, I will be happier and feel more rejuvenated.  I need to think more carefully on this and move forward with intentional purpose.

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