The Power of Being Intentional
Roderica Simmons, MAT, NBCT
Exceptional Children Itinerant Coordinating Teacher
Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools
As I reflect on my own journey as a special education teacher, there were many questions and wonders I had in regards to my instructional practice: how could I better impact student outcomes? How could I meet the many needs of diverse learners in my care?
The one constant that remained was that the guidance of a mentor who was intentional in their coaching made a profound impact on my philosophy as an educator.
As a special education teacher, my challenge was to consider learner variability as a central point of my instructional practice. When considering learner variability, the belief that all individuals are unique in how they learn and that each student brings a different learning style to the classroom guided my approach to the education of all students. By respecting the differences of each learner in my classroom, I was intentional about aligning lessons with rigorous academic standards, provide appropriate scaffolds to ensure access to the curriculum, and design instructional lessons that incorporated the unique and varied needs of my students.
Now, as a mentor, I work to ensure that teachers in the classroom are not only able to recognize the differences between their student learners, but how to address those unique needs in a thoughtful, comprehensive approach.
Intentional Teaching – What to consider when developing a lesson for all learners
Teachers consistently communicate that when challenged to examine their practice, they felt encouraged to consider the intentionality of their teaching to ensure that high expectations for all students were set and systems were in place to promote that. When discussing lesson formation with teachers, they are challenged to consider a variety of points including:
- How will the lesson take into consideration student interests, backgrounds, prior knowledge, and struggles?
- How does the lesson align with academic standards and how will instruction be differentiated consider learner variability?
- What methods will be used to ensure that students are provided varied opportunities to engage in academic talks to extend their learning?
Intentional Mentoring – Developing a growth mindset for educators and students
As I mentor beginning and veteran teachers, I often ask myself “How are we working collaboratively to increase student outcomes?”. I am a believer that all students have the ability to learn and grow academically, socially, and emotionally. This is not always easy to remember when teachers are overwhelmed with the tremendous amount of responsibility they are faced with daily, yet we continue to move forward with intention and focus.
With the guidance from NTC, I have been able to help teachers grow as leaders in their schools and become intentional in their actions. Teachers have been able to become reflective of their own practice, better collaborate with their colleagues, and increase a culture of inclusivity for all learners. Being able to clarify and affirm teachers’ “a-ha” moments using coaching language has made a difference for teachers and students alike. Actions in the learning environment are focused with a growth mindset always at the forefront of decision making.
As I mentor teachers, we embrace the power of “yet”. While we all enter at different points, intentional work towards goals and embracing a growth mindset has been the most beneficial for teachers and students. This mindset is important as teachers design instruction for students that allows them to grow their current skills while preparing them for their futures.
When teachers consider learner variability and the whole child, instruction will be provided in a way that encourages a growth mindset in all students.
The Impact of Being Intentional
As I consider the intentionality of my coaching and how it affects teachers, there have been positive outcomes that have made an impact on the future of teachers and students alike. Teachers have increased their ability to be advocates for children as well as contributing to discussions regarding instructional programming and methods. By doing so, students have also embraced the power of “yet,” becoming active participants in their own learning paving the way for a bright future.
As I reflect on the role of mentors, it is imperative that teachers are provided support as they grow in their practice. Knowing that they have someone to be a partner in growth can make the difference! Being intentional through coaching allows an impact on teachers, students, and school communities that can last for many years. When asked to share the impact of coaching, a teacher stated it best…“I always have a take away after our coaching sessions. What I have learned about myself has been priceless. I have grown tremendously in all areas especially with instruction and being a leader. My goal is to become a voice for students as I strive to continuously grow in all areas as it will move my students to great heights of progress.”