Steve Heisler

Teacher Author Speaker


"Every single child wants to be successful. The problem is, if they can't be successful at being successful, they'll be successful at screwing up. Our job as educators is to change the latter to the former."    

- from the The Missing Link by Steve Heisler

Intention & Growth

When I was still a student, and long before one would have to spend half an hour explaining what this saying refers to, I saw on the wall of a classroom: "Caution: Make sure Brain is Engaged Before Operating Mouth." If you're too young to know what this refers to, ask your parents. What it means seems to me simple and direct: if you are only sure of what you mean to say, and not what you mean, think further before you speak.

The critical importance of being clear about intentions, and not just actions, seems to me not only beyond argument, but elementally a part of professional growth. In that regard, in my little education world, it is better to teach an intentional lesson less effectively than to teach a great lesson accidentally. 

Reflecting on successful teaching alone hits a dead end. Great, how will you bring that success into the classroom tomorrow?

Reflective practice and professional growth truly begin with intentionality and clarity.

Plans that outline how a student will be smarter when they leave the classroom than when they walked in (SKILLS/knowledge), how those activities and teacher actions will make them smarter in that specific way and, of course, how in the hell the teacher will know if they’re smarter or not give us the critical perspective for meaningful reflection on the whole teaching and learning process.

Far from being prescriptive, in such a context teachers may improvise at will knowing not only where such spontaneity is intended to take the students but also how to reflect on the success of such improvisations so they can then become part of one's continued practice or laid aside for a more appropriate ‘jam.’

The same is true at the administrative level: what you do needs to be married to what you mean. Genuine, purposeful and professionally meaningful reflective practice really only exists in that space between intention and outcome.