Our Invisible Intentions
A couple years ago, I spent a summer’s evening in a retreat with two friends. Through the exercises we participated in, I got deeply in touch with my emotions in a way that I never had before. I felt the fullness of love, anxiety, joy, and sadness, and words haven’t been able to get very close to describing those feelings completely.
Despite their limitations, words and other non-verbal communication are what we’ve got. So we communicate the best we can, we put in effort to understand each other, and some people we can really understand quite easily, and others are much more of a struggle. But we’re always communicating with more than the words coming out of our mouths.
This is part of the breakdown in the “do as I say, not as I do” method of instruction. And of course we teachers, out of good intentions, put care into the words that come out of our mouths. But what about the other things we're "saying" to our students?
Many momentary objectives can arise in the spirit of a teacher to usurp our intentionality, and we are often oblivious to these ulterior objectives. Here are just a few:
Avoid looking bad. Most adults don’t like to show our ignorance, and adults “on stage” in the classroom are no exception. Many of us also want to look like we’ve got ourselves together, that we’re organized and always know what we’re doing. Many of us, since we were 12, have been committed to avoiding looking bad, and we’re not even aware of it.
Force an outcome. We try to manipulate students to get them to conform in behavior or understanding so that we can move on with our lesson plans. We’ve got X amount of material to cover in Y number of classes, so pay attention so we can all move on!
Make it and survive. Jobs can be tough, and no teacher training can prepare us for the wide range of personal and professional challenges that we face in the classroom. Making it through this lesson, this class, this block, this day, this week, this month, or this school year becomes a driving intention sometimes, and before we know it, we’re living only for weekends and vacations.
Ultimately, whenever our intentions deviate from a more noble intention that we’d be willing to share with others, what we’re really doing is avoiding responsibility.
We’re doing whatever we can to "make it," and we end up sacrificing the most important thing in our lives and ignoring (or harming!) the most important thing in our students’ lives: well-being.
The words that come out of my mouth are not the only communication that I’m making to my students in the classroom; we are always communicating non-verbally too. And among the abundance of classroom strategies to engage students, among the various conscious or unconscious intentions we can be operating from, there’s one intention, one focus, One Thing that stands paramount to our professional obligation as educators: foster well-being, our own and our students’.
Act from a place of well-being. Speak from a place of well-being. Live from well-being and with an intention to foster well-being. That’s what we adults need more than anything else, and that’s what our students need us to model and provide more than anything else.
Side bonus: teaching and learning content is much easier and enjoyable from a place of well-being.
Have a great week. ❤️
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