Leadership for Learning: How You Can Support Intentional Teaching
It’s been more than 30 years since I first stood in front of a classroom of kindergarten children as their teacher.
Back then, that thought… that phrase… blew me away. I was their teacher. Their kindergarten teacher. I tried not to feel too self-important, but, seriously… wow. I was their teacher.
One of the first things I learned during that time was that, when you are a teacher working in a classroom with two dozen or more little faces looking up at you, there’s really no such thing as “good days and bad days.” Instead, there are moments. Moments and opportunities. Each afternoon, once the children had safely boarded their buses and were bound for home, I would sit in the quiet, empty classroom and reflect on the day. I would try to think about what I could do in the future—heck, what I could do tomorrow!—to make the most of the many moments and opportunities and the promise that each school day held.
In the years since, I have come to think of that time as a period of good intentions: I meant well.
I really did. I meant well.
Moving beyond good intentions
It turns out that there is sometimes a wide gap between having intentions and being intentional.
The problem was that I lacked the tools and the guidance that I needed to not just mean well but to actually do well, become better, stronger—more intentional in the many decisions I made and the interactions I was a part of each day.
A huge missing ingredient for me was a way to link assessment to instruction. I lacked the tools that would help me understand each child’s development and learning—where each child was at any given time, and what that meant about they what they had already learned and were already able to do—and what knowledge and skills would come next in a child’s progression of development and learning.
You can influence intentionality
As an early childhood administrator, you have the power to provide that support and guidance for teachers, so that they, in turn, can support and guide the children in their classrooms.
I invite you to join me over the next several blog posts as we here at Teaching Strategies explore some of the ways that you can empower teachers to become better, stronger, and more intentional in their instructional decision-making. Let’s get started!
Twenty years ago, after 11 years in the classroom, I accepted my first job as principal of an elementary school. One of the most important lessons I learned as a school leader—if I didn’t already know it as a classroom teacher—is just how much teachers matter.
Their words. . . their actions. . . they matter.
The quality of their instructional practices
The quality of their relationships with children and families
The quality of the decisions they make, all day, every day. . .
All of these things MATTER.
Remind teachers how much they matter
As a school leader, you are in a unique position to remind teachers just how much everything they do matters to the children in their classrooms.
So make it a point to ensure that every time you talk with a teacher about her work, you also ask her about the decisions she makes—certainly about the content she covers and the instructional practices she employs to deliver that content, but also about the ways that she interacts with children and responds to their questions, discoveries, and mistakes.
Ask teachers about the decisions they make regarding how they interact with families, communicate with them, and involve them in their children’s learning.
Ask teachers about the daily schedules they’ve created, the ways they choose to arrange classroom furniture, and how they select and store materials.
Teachers can improve the quality of their practice by being intentional about all of these decisions. To take the first step in making those decisions, they must first realize that they have the power to do so.
Being a teacher can be difficult—long hours, limited resources, lots of emotions. It can be all too easy for a teacher to focus on the things she can’t change or control. So help teachers focus instead on what they can control: the daily decisions they can make.
The simple question “What were you intentional about today?” has the power to change the way teachers think and act, all day, every day.
Take the time to let teachers know that you recognize and value their decision-making and the many ways that they are intentional in their practice. Because, the truth is, all the things that you are intentional about, well, they matter, too.
As you start to implement some of these strategies in your own classroom(s), let us know how it goes! Just share your experiences in the comments below.