The thought of returning to the classroom full time, after 18 months of remote and hybrid teaching filled me with both excitement and anxiety. I’m ALWAYS excited to return to school after a summer of family time, self-care, reading, and personal professional development. The anxiety? That was something new. Not knowing how the school community would navigate the mask-wearing, and the distancing, and the saliva testing, and the mitigation protocols, and the difficult task of welcoming students back into the building after a long hiatus. Add to that the fact that we transitioned from 40 minute periods to 85 minute block periods and you have the perfect recipe for a stress-inducing 26th year of teaching.
But, as I type this, I am almost five weeks into a school year that has started much more positively than I expected…and I think I know one of the reasons why it has started so well.
At the start of each New Year, I choose #OneWord to guide me over the following 12 months. It’s always a word that sits on my shoulder and nudges me towards the version of myself that I hope to become. I have chosen the words resilience, advocacy, and calm among others but this year I chose the word INTENTION, and it is this #OneWord that I believe to be one of the reasons for the good start to the school year.
After a year of disruption, of teaching remotely, then in a hybrid format, of living under a lockdown, and a mask mandate I felt like in order to survive 2020 I rolled with the punches, ebbed and flowed, and never really felt like I was being intentional. Plans weren’t made, because they were likely to be canceled, and I didn’t have any autonomy over my life. For that reason I chose INTENTION as the word to guide me towards a better year ahead.
When you are intentional about something, your focus is in the moment: who you are, what you do, why you do it. And it requires presence along the way, checking inside as you work on the outside.Coralie Sawruk
In January I prophetically wrote: “INTENTION to me, means making plans, setting regular short-term goals, and taking control of the steps needed to bring those plans to fruition. I may or may not be successful but at least I will feel as if I am in control. By being INTENTIONAL I will ensure that schoolwork is planned and organized in the best way possible for my students. By being INTENTIONAL I will make time to work my way through that ever-growing to-do list at home, and by being INTENTIONAL I will find ways in which to carve out time for self-care whether that be through reading, exercise, or meditation.“
Returning to school with 85 minute block periods meant that I couldn’t just cut and paste last year’s Zoom lessons, and I couldn’t mail in my 40-minute pre-pandemic lessons either. The challenge of teaching for 85 minutes meant that I HAD to be INTENTIONAL. I had to ensure that my lessons remained novel and challenging while maintaining student interest and providing opportunities for individual work, group work, collaboration, creativity, and movement.
A benefit of 85-minute lessons is 85-minute prep periods. By being INTENTIONAL with my time I have been able to plan creative lessons, ‘chunking‘ them into manageable 15 minute blocks, with an INTENTIONAL transition between each one. I’ve also been saving these lessons in my Google Drive while staying on top of my grading. Now, this might not sound novel, but I don’t remember being this well planned and organized since my first year of teaching in (ahem) 1994.
INTENTION does of course have another meaning, as in setting an INTENTION as a guiding principle for how I want to be, live, and show up in the world. Specific, powerful INTENTIONS, help to align my thoughts and attitude for the day ahead and I recently created an ‘Affirmations & Intentions‘ board on Pinterest to help save ideas.
Recently I have been inspired by Liz Baker Plosser‘s new book ‘Own Your Morning: Reset Your A.M. Routine To Unlock Your Potential‘. The book contains great ideas that prompt you to identify your core values—the way you want to spend your energy, time, and resources, and then points you towards easy-to-implement strategies to help you set a morning routine unique to you. There’s still room for improvement in my morning routine, and a recent Goal Setting lesson with my #HealthEd students led to me committing to reducing my Starbucks habit, and also to stop hitting the snooze button on my morning alarm.
If it’s true that ‘what we think, we become’, embracing INTENTIONS in this sense has demonstrated the power to move me closer to the person I want to become, and has helped me start the new school year much more positively and successfully than I ever could have imagined.
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