July is all about suntan lotion, s’mores, beach towels and splashing in the pool. As much as I love the summer, once August hits, my mind starts to shift into back to school mode. I make my way to office supply stores and breathe in the possibilities, eyeing the piles of fresh, unused notebooks, all ready for a new year. Aisles of pens and pencils, colorful folders, and decorative binders leave me dreaming about all I might write and create this year.
Yet there is one teacher supply that rarely inspires- the plan book. Until now! My good friend and colleague from the Long Island Writing Project, Nicolette James, has created an Intentional Educator Planner that is not only pleasing to the eye, it promises to feed my teacher soul. Nicolette is an English teacher and the chairperson of the English Department at Westbury High School. She is currently pursuing her doctorate in education and has been a leader in her school, community, and the Long Island Writing Project. Nicolette is passionate about teaching and learning, as well as fostering a growth mindset and being mindful. She inspires her students, fellow teachers, and school leaders to become the best versions of themselves. She is a believer in literacy and the power of reading and writing to transform lives. Nicolette was recently interviewed on the Master Leadership 360 Podcast, which you can listen to here.
As a teacher leader, Nicolette developed the Intentional Educator Planner as a way to strengthen her own teaching and reflective practice. Thus, the 2017-2018 Intentional Educator Planner is not only a place for teachers to write their lesson plans. There are spaces set aside in the planner for educators to name their goals and intentions in writing. Inspirational quotes fill the planner. Each month there is a guiding question about your teaching practice and room to reflect in writing. Each week, educators have the chance to write what they are grateful for, what they are learning, what they intend to do, and more. The planner is a combination plan book and journal in one beautiful book! I’ve always wanted to keep a reflective journal about my teaching but in the hustle and bustle of a busy school day, that seemed to be the first thing to go from list of “to-do’s.” I’m hopeful that having a place to reflect right in my plan book will encourage me to take time to write down my thoughts and ideas each week.
I interviewed Nicolette about the philosophy behind the Intentional Educator Planner and more:
KNS: You’ve written, “Educating with intention is the purposeful integration of growth mindset, mindfulness, and reflective practice to improve teaching, learning and leading.” How do these ideas come together in the Intentional Educator Planner?
NJ: First, I’d like to explain the philosophy of Educating with Intention:
Educating with intention is the desire to improve one’s teaching, learning and leading through the purposeful and holistic integration of mindset (the beliefs and attitudes that orient the way we see things and handle certain situations), mindfulness (a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment), and reflective practice (a continuous cycle of self-observation and self-evaluation for the purpose of improvement).
To educate with intention is to enhance our professional practice–planning, teaching and reflecting —by nourishing, developing and devoting deliberate attention to all aspects of our lives–our minds, bodies and spirits. The ultimate goal of this approach is twofold: to provide a positive and meaningful learning experience for the students whose lives we touch and to support educators on their journey to leading full and satisfying personal and professional lives. The Intentional Educator Planner is a tool that supports that philosophy by reminding us to check-in with the various aspects of our personhood that we bring to our profession. An intentional educator makes a daily attempt, in all ways, to be better than the day before.
KNS: Why is it important to reflect in writing about your goals for the upcoming school year?
NJ: There have been several studies proving that the act of writing down goals and intention increases the likelihood of achieving them. It’s important to reflect in writing because writing makes our thoughts real. Writing is an act of creation. When we write, we’re creating a physical product–something tangible that reminds us of our commitment and helps us do what we say we will do. In addition, there is ownership and accountability when we write our goals down.
KNS: The planner is filled with quotes as well as questions for reflection. What was the process like for you selecting the quotes and thinking of the questions teachers need to reflect upon?
NJ: The monthly reflection prompts are questions that I find helpful for educators to consider as we plan for the learning environments that we wish to create for our students. There are so many variables that we can think about but it would be impossible to address them all. The reflection prompts are meant to stimulate thinking around what I believe are a few key considerations that deserve our attention, but are often lost in the daily “doing” of our jobs.
KNS: Each week has a space to write an intention. What are intentions? What are some examples of intentions teachers might set? There is also space to write things you’ve learned, are accepting, look forward to, or appreciate. Why do you think teachers should take the time each week to answer those questions in writing?
NJ: Intentions are different from goals. And while we should definitely set goals and are encouraged to do so in the planner, the focus on intentions is not the same. Intentions are about the present–what we would like to be, the values we want to embody, how we desire to live now, moment to moment, regardless of whether or not we achieve our goals. Goals, on the other hand, are future focused and based on particular action steps that we will take to achieve them. The wonderful thing about intentions is that when we set them mindfully, they bring us closer to achieving our goals. For example, I could say that my goal is to to lose 5 pounds. That is something that I can measure at the end of 5 weeks and say, “yes, I have lost 5 pounds.” An intention is less specific and less measurable, however, it’s the soil we need to cultivate in order to then plant the seeds of our goals. So when I set an intention to be healthier it will influence the decisions I make as I move towards my goal because it gives me a heart-based or belief-based “why?” and not just an objective “what.” Our intentions help drive us toward our goals. So, a teacher might set a weekly intention to listen more actively or to recognize a positive trait in every student.
Intentions are about awareness–of ourselves and how we wish to experience the world. When we encourage that type of awareness in ourselves by noting it somewhere, such as the planner, it keeps us present. When we pause long enough to stop and think about what we are looking forward to, what we will appreciate, and what we are grateful for, it helps us to encounter the experience more mindfully.We raise our level of awareness and are better able to appreciate or to be grateful for the experiences when they show up because we have opened ourselves to them.
KNS: What is your greatest hope for educators who use the Intentional Educator Planner?
NJ: My greatest hope for educators who use the intentional educator planner on the most basic level is that it will help them to become or continue to be thoughtful in their planning and preparation. Ultimately, and I believe more importantly, I encourage teachers to adopt the philosophy of Educating with Intention: “Plan. Teach. Reflect. Revise.” To be intentional in their practice and in their lives. To approach education from the mindset of becoming a better, more fully integrated person–physically, personally, professionally, and emotionally. It is my desire to support educators in developing those aspects of ourselves because I believe that better people, make better educators.
Nicolette has created a video that explains the features and purpose of the Intentional Educator Planner.
Nicolette James has generously donated two 2017-2018 Intentional Educator Planners for a giveaway here at Two Writing Teachers!
(If you are interested in purchasing the Intentional Educator Planner, Nicolette is also offering free shipping using the coupon code TWT until August 12th. Visit educazen.org to place your order.)
- This giveaway is for two copies of the 2017-2018 Intentional Educator Planner. Many thanks to Nicolette James for donating planners for two readers.
- For a chance to win a copy of the 2017-2018 Intentional Educator Planner, please leave a comment on this post by Wednesday, August 16th at 11:59 p.m. EDT. Kathleen Neagle Sokolowski will use a random number generator to pick two comment numbers, determining the two winners. The names will be announced at the bottom of this post by Saturday, August 19th.
- Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so Kathleen can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. From there, Nicolette James will ship your planner to you. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
- If you are the winner of the book, Kathleen will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – INTENTIONAL EDUCATOR PLANNER. Please respond to her e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.