Next up was intention groups! What a great way to start the day! This is a great habit for everyone, from the youngest to the oldest!
As an adult, I run down my list of things to do throughout the day, and usually start my day looking over my calendar and/or checklist. Heartwood ALC instills this value in their students by explaining the process and giving children time to start their day and explore their own intentions.
Children went from the “stand up” meeting to smaller groups where they wrote down their intentions. They are so well versed in the routine, the only direction needed was letting them know it was time for intentions.
Each of the 3 facilitators work with a group of children, 8 in a group. The overall ratio is 8:1 with and ideal ratio of 8 -10:1. So they hit their mark! Each group has a journal area; students quickly retrieved their journals and wrote their intentions for the day. If the student is not able to write their intentions other students help them, or write the intentions for them. Students take a few minutes to do this while the daily assigned group leader is identified.
Students rotate leadership responsibility (this is flexible depending on the child’s request) in the group and begin the group by choosing a group game building communication and community skills. The morning game was “frog” where everyone except the person picking the frog closes their eyes. Once the frog is picked, everyone opens their eyes. If the frog sticks his tongue out at you, you die! The detective tries to guess who the frog is, if they do, the frog dies!
This particular morning the game started with 3 visitors in the group including myself. One child was killed by the frog, and no one knew who the frog was… the tension was growing as everyone looked everyone else in the eye… then the frog gave herself up! She said she didn’t want to play anymore.
Everyone easily accepted the game was over, some expressed a little disappointment, but only for a moment, and then the group moved on with their day.
What does this have to do with intentions? Well, I didn’t ask officially, but I’m assuming with the overall intention of Heartwood being to build a community of learners, this helps to build that community without pushing the kids, it happens organically.
Intentions are a way to start the day with purpose; staff model behavior, participating with the students by also having a journal and writing their intentions.
In a self-directed school, students are allowed to learn at their own pace, study subjects they are interested in when they are interested in them, work on activities of their choosing, and interact with others as little or as much as they choose. Humans are social creatures, so most of the time is filled with social interactions.
The students don’t discuss their intentions, unless they want to. In this case, no one shared except one young man whom I asked. I asked him if he had his intentions in his head, and he told me no, he had already written them down (the transition to the children writing in their journals was so smooth, I didn’t realize it was happening until it had already happened). I told him he was a fast writer (he looked quizzically at me). I then explained that am interested in working with older students, and I would probably be asking him a lot of questions throughout the day if that was OK. He said “sure.” I asked if he would mind sharing his intentions for the day with me. He said “sure,” and told me he planned on playing in the gym, going to the coffee shop and working on his music.
Some may feel like that is not an example of school at all. Where are the lessons? How can a student learn from playing in the gym or going to the coffee shop? Working on music is all fine and good, on your own time, but how does that relate to what you really need to be learning in life?
The self-directed philosophy supports and TRUSTS the child knows what they need to learn when they need to learn it. This is not a new concept. Ancient philosophers Buddha Siddhartha Guatama Shakyamuni (c. 563/480 – c. 483/400 BCE), and the Theosophy movement (3rd century CE) are both credited with the basic principle of, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” This is not the original quote obviously, but has been updated for current times.
As adults we learn like this. You do not remember everything from your school age years, and it is impossible to remember everything you have learned over the years. BUT think about those times you were really into learning about something, anything, a subject or skill you CHOSE. Think about how much time and effort you put into it, how interesting it was, and how much you ENJOYED yourself, even if the material or skill was tough! This is the basis of self directed learning. When you have intentions, the sky truly is the limit.
I challenge you to live your day with intention – start your morning with an intention list and see where your intentional learning day takes you.