Intent Assigning and Treadmill Writing

Posted by Rachel Herron on 1/15/2021 7:00:00 AM

As the countdown began on New Year’s Eve, I began to formulate my resolution. Usually my promises to myself are focused on my physical or mental well being or relationship building. This year I resolved to think about the intent I am assigning to situations and statements made by others.

Reading a student file that states, “refusal to work” in my field is not an unusual activity. We are educators, so we know how it goes. Each year at least one student simply says, “No.” As an educator I have responded to this action more times than I care to admit with an immediate assigning of intention.

Intention is a personal thing. I am the ONLY one who knows why I make the decisions I make, no matter how much someone “understands my motive.”

This year I was having a conversation with a high school student about writing. The amiable conversation took a sharp turn when she responded with a pained expression.

“When are they going to figure out that it is not that I won’t do it...I can’t do it.” 

Her response brought tears to her eyes...and mine.

This moment got me thinking. If this had been my student, what would I think of the act of not completing writing assignments?

Would I wonder if writing was hard for her? Would I consider the physical aspects of her writing and whether it was laborious? Would I think about her organizational skills or how she felt when she sat down in front of a blank sheet of paper? Would I talk to her about voice typing versus handwriting an assignment? 

Would I wonder if she had been fed that morning or if she had gotten into an argument with another student, leaving her brain preoccupied? Would I label her actions as defiant or take the interaction personally?

Is she a behavior problem...somebody who exerts power over her teachers? Or is she  somebody whose confidence has been shot through adult expectations that force her to respond in a specific way in order to show what she knows.

The student tearfully told me about her history of having writing challenges and feeling beaten down after years of not being able to complete the task successfully. I began to wonder if the years of assigning intent to her actions has prohibited her success — creating a vicious cycle of educational failure.

As I am writing this article, I'm walking on a treadmill desk utilizing Google Voice Typing in Google Docs. I am getting my steps in, which is an additional New Year's Resolution, and I'm thankful that my office has a treadmill desk. It's almost impossible for me to type while  walking but dictating my thoughts and editing my article later allows me to feel productive, active and accomplished.

Is this wrong? Is my ability to write a blog entry with my voice versus my hands cheating? I still have to organize my thoughts, edit my work and check my grammar and spelling. I have to identify the issues voice dictation has when it does not pick up exactly what I am saying. I have to add all punctuation with a verbal command. I've gotten really good at this -- especially since I prefer dictating text messages versus typing for ease and preference. 

While in my car,I can literally create a text message, assign who receives it and verbalize what I want with a voice command. The phone will read my text back to me, checking to make sure it is what I meant to say and then will send it when I am ready. Is my text message not valid because I chose a different mode to create it? I know that police officers also prefer my mode due to Indiana’s hands-free law!

I am grateful that I have the ability to type or handwrite projects. I am also grateful for the option to do what makes me a better writer. Sometimes simply getting words on paper is the challenge. I can honestly say that I stared at this blank document for a long time before I decided to dictate it and edit later.

My daughter is in the 4th grade and was challenged this year for the first time to write a multi-paragraph paper. She did all of the pre-work through handwriting but, when the time arrived to write the final draft she sat at the table frozen and frustrated with the daunting and overwhelming feeling of the task. 

I took the computer and turned the screen away. I handed her the handwritten rough draft and quietly turned on Google Voice Typing. I encouraged her to read what she had written without looking at the screen. She dicatated her paper and was able to go through and edit paragraph by paragraph for her final draft. She caught things she wanted to change and corrected them independently. Her smile and visible confidence proclaimed her sense of accomplishment. 

Just think of the negative intent I would have assigned my struggling daughter’s actions.

Resolutions do not need to happen on New Year's Day. You can decide to evaluate how you assign intent today.

Rachel Herron

Rachel Herron, SDI Facilitator