A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of witnessing the most intentional teaching I have ever seen. This teaching did not occur in an elementary, middle, or high school classroom; nor did it occur in a college lecture hall; neither did it occur in a professional learning session either; it actually occurred on a football field!
First, I’ll give you a little background about the group I watched in order to put all of this in context. This is a lesson from which we can all learn. Why? Because…as we approach the implementation of the Common Core this school year, I have to ask… What would our schools look like if every teacher would teach as intentionally as this?
As I said, this “intentional teaching experience” occurred on a football field. I happen to be a huge fan of a World Class Drum and Bugle corps from Garfield, N.J., the Garfield Cadets. They are comprised of approximately 150 youth, who range in age 14-22 years old, and play either brass or percussion instruments, or are members of the colorguard. They travel the United States throughout the summer, sleep on high school gym floors, and compete against other corps. In between they practice, continually refine, and strive to perfect their 11-minute show that is intricate, exhilarating, emotional, and entertaining to watch. They also win… a lot!
A drum and bugle corps’ show involves musical precision, theatrics, and excellence, similar to a marching band, yet to compare a marching band to a drum corps would be like comparing a Jeep Cherokee to a Porsche Carrera (the corps being the Porsche)!
The Cadets came to my town to rehearse prior to a competition. Their rehearsals are open to the public and since I am a fan and my daughter is a member of her high school’s colorguard, we just had to visit. I know the director of the corps, personally; he has a reputation for instilling intrinsic motivation and a sense of high standards and personal pride in his staff and students. He has profoundly influenced my thinking, as well.
Now, I’ll bet you noticed that sentence I wrote, “They win…a lot!”
This corps is all about striving for personal excellence; and not the kind that is measured by what an outside judge thinks, but measured by how you think you did… by asking yourself, “Is that the BEST I can do?” In fact, the goal is to develop a show that is perfect... according to your own standards.
When I took my seat in the bleachers, to watch the rehearsal, the Corps was on the football field while the instructor was in the Press box directing the students. They rehearsed the same 8 counts over and over. That is when I realized just how intentional the teaching was. This is the process that was used:
Each time the instructor spoke to a section, he would address the section and they were to raise their hands to let him know he had their attention the entire time the instructor speaking. Right away, the student engagement was guaranteed.
Then, the students put into action, the request the instructor made. As soon as they were done, the instructor gave that group of students needed feedback. This feedback was so specific it was part of the culture of the organization. Both the members of the corps and the instructor knew that to compromise on what was being asked would not be accepted. Requests such as, “Turn the volume up by a half, ok… now by a quarter, ok.. now by an eighth.” were so deliberate, the students were taught that details are important. Then, as the students played those passages back to the instructor, time and time again, the instructor could tell who was giving 100% and who was not. And he did so by addressing that student by name, respectfully, to let them know that their contribution counted.
If you think about what I just described, you will notice that the instructor used formative assessment, had high standards, individualized instruction, was respectful to the students, knew his students by name, valued his students, and taught his students lifelong lessons. He continually checked for understanding and certainly made sure his students were engaged.
…and he didn’t even have the luxury of proximity!
I began to think, “What would happen if a teacher taught in a manner as deliberate as this throughout the school day?" I am sure this happens in some classrooms, but does this happen in all classrooms and so intentionally?
So, I ask… what are your thoughts on intentional teaching? Does it occur? To what degree does it occur? Is it possible or am I just dreaming? There are researchers who have defined the term, "Intentional Teaching" (of course there are!!!) But really…What do you think?
Dr. Frances A. Miller,