Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Intentions vs. Action

On Twitter the other day, Lauren O’Grady of All teachers are earners - All learners are teachers said…”we judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions.” I began to think about how I look at other colleagues, students, and even family members and realized how true this statement is.

Family members: I grew up knowing my parents meant “Do what I say, not what I do.” I had a lot of conflicting thoughts when I was growing up. As one of the small minority of Asians in school, I experienced discrimination first hand from other students and adults. This made me more determined not to be this way. Yet, at home, my parents pushed that I had to be better than everyone else because I was Chinese. They were very strict about following Chinese traditions and encouraging me to find other Chinese kids to hang out with (but there weren’t any). Years later, they were very upset when I didn’t marry a Chinese man. I know that their intentions were to make me proud of my heritage but that is not what I saw by their actions. I rebelled and really didn’t want to know much about my heritage as a child because I wanted to be like everyone else and not the minority. Now I regret that and wish I had learned the language and the customs as a child. I decided that my intention is to know more about my heritage and decided to do something about it. I have recently signed up for a beginning Chinese language course next month and I’m really excited about it.

Colleagues: I get very confused when I read articles and hear educators talk about how we need to be more globally connected. I also hear how we are need to use technology more with students. Yet, there doesn’t seem to be enough funding to give teachers the training they need. I heard on the Virtual Staffroom podcast about all the open source software that is available but most school districts won’t use it. They believe if it is free, it must not be worth anything. I also hear other teachers agree that we should be using technology more in the classroom but I don’t see a lot of them making the effort to learn and use what they learn effectively. Many teachers come up with excuses why they can’t do this. I understand that the intentions are there but their actions show up differently. I’ve decided that my intention is to help other teachers find out more tools that are available and help teachers put them to use in the classroom. Yet, having that intention is just not good enough. I’ve put together some presentations and will be doing some workshops for teachers in the upcoming months.

Government: I see the government pushing for changes but it all sounds like rhetoric because I don’t see the actions to match these intentions. Sure, everyone wants a better education system but setting unrealistic and impossible standards are not the way to get it. It sounds good in the news and makes politicians look good but that is about it. I went to a meeting the other day with parents who were complaining about schools and teachers across the state. I realized that different districts had different problems and wondered what it would take to fix it. I believe the change needs to come from the top down. I see different school superintendents with different agendas and it trickles down to administrators and teachers. Teachers feel like they are sometimes beating their heads against the wall when they have to fight the government. My intention is to let the government know that their intentions don’t match their actions. In order for me to do this I’ve started to write letters to my legislators and school board members. I also vote in every election.

Students: I hear many students at the beginning of the year say they intend to work hard, study hard, and get good grades. Then when progress reports come out they seem surprised that their grades stink. I ask them if they studied each night on a regular basis, turned in homework on time, asked questions in class, completed their classwork on time and they usually tell me no. Again they had good intentions, but their actions showed differently. Maybe we need to help students bridge the gap from intentions to actions. I think I would have them right down their intentions (goals) and write down their actions to accomplish this (strategies). Then I would ask them to review these each week to see if they actually did what they said they would. I notice that when I write a list of things I need to do, I actually get more done than if I just make mental notes about it. Hopefully by doing this, my students could be more successful.
I hope that I will start looking at my own intentions and think about what actions I will take so they are not just good intentions. Hopefully I can be a model for students and other teachers. If you have ways to match your intentions with your actions, please share it in the comments because it might be something that I could do too. Thanks!


mindelei said...

I really love that your blogs always get the cogs turning in my brain! Thank you for being so thought provoking.

Anonymous said...

Hey Pat,
I try to live by that mantra more and more as I grow older. It is not easy because the actions are the seen and the intentions are the unseen. When I struggle with it, I think of the times I have been blamed for something or my actions have been misconstrude and how much it hurts when my intentions are not asked for. I try to ask now :when you did ...... what were your intentions?" I have found that this works really well with students and is a great strategy to model. I wish someone modelled it to me at high school instead of at 28 years of age.
Thanks Pat

loonyhiker said...

mindelei: Thanks for reading! I learn a lot from you too!

loonyhiker said...

lauren: Thanks for inspiring me by your words. It really had me looking at my own thoughts and actions in a way I hadn't before.