With all of our talk with Opal 2 students in this first month of school about intentions, some questions have come up about the process of being intentional and thinking about our thinking. Together
with the children we’ve wondered:
- How do you have intentions but still stay open to possibilities?
- Are there chances to be surprised and inspired even when we have plans and intentions in place?
Slowly we’re discovering that yes indeed, staying open to possibilities and finding moments of surprise and inspiration are still happening right alongside our work of being intentional in our choices and processes in Opal 2. In fact, we might even say that those moments are happening more often as we see students becoming more clear at articulating their intentions. Stating those intentions actually seems to be supporting us to be more open and more inspired than we might otherwise be. Having intentions doesn’t mean having no flexibility. It doesn’t mean sticking to those intentions no matter what. We might even argue that to be open to new possibilities, to welcome surprise and wonder, and to be flexible in your thinking, you first must be able to recognize or know your own intentions. You must first have thought through the process of thinking, so that you might be aware enough to recognize when things don’t go as you expected.
Those unexpected moments are not cause for grief. But instead provide us with a moment to re-evaluate, to take our thinking a step further. We might ask: Why didn’t things go as planned? What happened to my original intention? Was this something I wanted or expected? Was this something that distracted me? Or something that
helped me imagine new possibilities? Here’s an example of some things we’ve been hearing in Opal 2 around those unexpected moments:
“Someone else added on to my idea to make it bigger than I could have thought of.”
“A material helped me come up with new words that I couldn’t think of at first.”
“It woke up an idea in my mind that I had completely forgot about before.”
Having intentions doesn’t shut us down to possibilities. Having intentions opens us up, it makes us aware of our own thought processes. It allows us to embrace the unexpected, to not be scared or frustrated, but instead see those moments as opportunities to stretch and grow in ways we initially couldn’t even imagine.
It was with this sentiment that we asked the children in Opal 2 to explore their stories in the language of watercolor in Story Workshop one day. We wondered together, how can we have intentions and stay open to new possibilities at the same time? What will happen when I try my story in this material?
Many children were openly excited to be invited to tell their stories using the watercolor paints. And by many, I do mean many, but not all. Particularly there was one student who immediately showed us his hesitancy. N showed and told us right away that it was not his intention to try his story using watercolors. He argued his case to his teachers saying that he was much more interested in building his story in blocks than he was in painting it.
We listened carefully, reminded N that he would have the chance to come back to blocks the very next day, and encouraged him to stay open. Then, we let him have a little time and trusted that he would come to this work when he was ready. N stayed back, behind the scenes for a while, watching as his classmates dove in to their many
new discoveries. As he watched and waited, very slowly we started to see his intentions beginning to change. From frustrated, to not interested, to just a little curious, to completely invested in his story with this new material, N was able to give himself the time and space to shift and become open enough to make new discoveries.
When N made the decision to give this material a try he started by sitting down at a table and slowly and carefully drawing a building and some of the characters in his story. Later, when we checked back in and there was an opportunity to share what had happened in watercolor that day, N was one of the first to have his hand up. He
carefully explained, with a look of excitement and pride on his face, the surprise he had encountered while working in watercolor that day. “It allowed me to use the little robots to add color. It helped me imagine what I might want to do next!”
N gave us all a strong model for what it means to allow ourselves to have intentions while staying (or
becoming) open to new, exciting discoveries and possibilities beyond what we might have ever initially imagined.