I’m thinking a lot about intention right now. Yesterday, on the phone with a friend, I realized we were starting to walk down a very brambly path. As I heard my voice become scratchier and louder, I suddenly remembered I could hold a different intention for our conversation, something closer to love. I shifted and we changed paths and it felt like a little miracle.
I’m remembering the way my old teaching intentions (Be perfect all the time! Really wow ‘em! Blow them away!) used to feel so exhausting. My intention was always to impress my students with the most entertaining lesson (edutainment, my friends and I called it) and to make them love my class (and, let’s be honest here, to love me). Sure, I wanted them to learn too, but I also wanted them to love every second of every hour. So, I tap danced. I spun plates. I made imovies for just a single lesson (true story). I differentiated for everyone. And I tried to get ahead of their opinions, to hustle for the worth of the class, for my worth as a teacher- maybe even for my worth as a human.
But, of course……. I missed the magic of each moment. I missed the interaction that comes from just being present with someone, from listening, from stillness. Something is born when there is space for it and this something is lost when you are performing, tap dancing about comma splices or singing a song about the semicolon (two things I promise you I actually did in my classroom).
For a long time I didn’t have a new intention to take the place of my old intention to impress my students. Slowly, a few new intentions for my teaching wiggled into my heart. I wanted to be present with them. I wanted to be kind. I wanted them to grow as readers and writers.
Yesterday, I read this piece about perfectionism at a dinner party and I was so easily reminded of the way I used to feel when I was teaching, the fear that I wasn’t enough, that I had to be clever and funny and hip, somehow, more. I loved her replacement intention when she was panicking at a fancy dinner party where everyone was a beautiful well-read genius. The replacement intention popped into her mind: Be curious. Be kind. I don’t have to perform. I can just be curious and kind.
I’ll lend you this intention too. Warmth and interest are more than enough to bring to a moment with a student, colleague or parent.
Tap dancing makes for a better workout, but kindness makes for a better life.