Beginning the School Year with Intention

In Spartanburg, SC School District 6 the focus is on “Teaching with Intention”

by Dawn J. Mitchell and Dr. Sam Maddox

"Quality is never an accident, it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution. It represents the wise choice of many alternatives."

— Willa Foster

Each year as we embark on a new year together of mentoring and supporting our new teachers, we engage in reflective practice and together decide a focus for ourselves for the coming year.  This year our focus was “Teaching with Intention.”  Below are the tips we shared with our incoming class of first-year teachers that we want to pass along to you.

First, Lay the Foundation

Realize that your life is made up of choices.  Every morning is a new day full of decisions and opportunity.  You get to choose your outlook.  You don’t have to let the circumstances of your past negatively determine the pattern of your future.

Evaluate the Culture

Life is not lived in a vacuum.  It is lived surrounded by a culture that is moving around us, forming a swift current.  Teaching with intention will require you to take a step back and evaluate the flow of the stream to determine where it is headed, how it is affecting you, and if it is taking you in a direction you desire.

Examine Yourself

Know who you are.  Get a strong handle on your passions, talents, abilities, and challenges.  Give time and energy to this endeavor.  It is one of the most valuable things you can do.  Don’t compare yourself to others, but it is wonderful to be inspired by others and even adopt some of their practices if they are beneficial to you.   

Define a Purpose

Identify what you want your teaching career to communicate and to contribute.  Find/rediscover a passion to live for and to teach for that is bigger than yourself.  Write it down; it will provide a focus for you.  Do not be critical of yourself if your goals are not identical to someone else’s.  Success looks different for different people.

Set Goals  

Goals move us and shape us.  Set goals that are directly in line with your defined purpose.  By their very nature, they will introduce intentionality into your life.  Stay focused.  We live in a world of constant connectivity and distraction that is begging for our attention nearly every moment of the day.  Learn to turn off the distraction and live your life instead.  

Learn from Others

Successful people are curious people.  They possess the humility to learn from others.  Identify people accomplishing your purpose and goals.  Then, study them, learn from them, and grow alongside them. 

Reflect and Rewrite

To teach with intention effectively, we must periodically take time to reflect. To pause and ask ourselves how it’s going, what is working, what isn’t, and to consider what we can do differently.  We have the opportunity not only to write our goals and our plans, but to also re-write them when necessary.

Model Curiosity

At the risk of being controversial, imparting information is only one part of being an effective teacher. Equally important? Modeling curiosity, a genuine love of learning and knowledge, and above all showing others what it looks like to be passionate about a particular pursuit. When students see their teacher’s enthusiasm for his/her content area, the enthusiasm is contagious.

Show the Relevance

Just as we wish to know why we need to complete a task, attend a meeting, or learn a new skill, students want and need to know why we consider our topics of study and assignments are important. Students need never ask, “When are we going to use this?” or “Why do we need to know this?” because those answers should be both implicit and explicit in our instruction.

Finally, See the Child

Toni Morrison said of parenting, “Let your face speak what’s in your heart. When they walk in the room my face says I’m glad to see them. It’s just as small as that, you see?” This advice applies to teaching as well. Before we see the test score, the classroom management challenge, or the student who has a question about everything, let us first see the child and what makes him/her unique. Occasionally we recall the content a gifted teacher shared with us, but more often we remember the teachers who were kind, patient, and present for us at times we needed and appreciated it the most.

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