May 22, 2015
L is for Lesson plans.
I had a love-hate relationship with lesson plans. On the one hand, I liked doing them because it gave me a chance to get somewhat creative. The important thing was to achieve the goals and objectives of the lesson. I would experiment with different online forms and fonts and add pictures to entertain myself. When I was in graduate school, it was fun to create lesson plans because we could use the passion we had combined with what we were learning to create wonderfully innovative lesson plans for a fictional classroom.
That was the problem: it wasn’t real. In real life, lesson plans can be a lot of work and not always a place for innovation. Real innovation – such as those “teachable moments” one looks forward to – is more likely spontaneous. Maybe something you’ve planned isn’t working out and you come up with something different on the spur of the moment.
Usually, however, lesson plans were a cause for panic. First of all, I greatly depended on them to guide me through the day, because otherwise I’d forget something I had to do. Because I have a tendency to lose things, it got to the point where I had to print out two copies of my plans each day, so that if one got lost, the other would be in a safe and obvious place.
Lesson plans were also very time consuming to produce. Some teachers are able to get by with filling the squares of their lesson plan book.
Oh, how I wish I’d been able to do that! Instead, I spent many hours every day writing detailed lesson plans for the following day, even after I’d been teaching for ten years. Usually, I knew more or less what the plan was going to be, and I also filled in the squares of my teacher plan book. Still, there were always organizational notes that I had to write out in order to fix them in my mind. I would be up late at night on my computer, preparing these detailed plans that were designed for me not to forget things, yet the next day, I would forget some things anyway, because I was generally tired from staying up too late the night before to get my plans done! It was a vicious circle!
Some administrators required us to hand in weekly plans, with goals, objectives, and the Illinois standard number we were addressing. It wasn’t usually a problem for me, because I had to keep up with preparing my lesson outlines in advance so I would be able to prepare specifically for a particular concept and date it was to be introduced, taught to or reviewed with the students.
Over time, I designed the most effective lesson plan for me. It had two columns: On the left was the actual plan – what was to be taught. On the right would be listed materials I needed to assemble and notes for me to remember, such as a certain attitude I had to take with the students (Be firm! Make sure all eyes are on you!) or the names of students who were supposed to complete a particular task or be in a certain group. At the top, above the columns, were miscellaneous things I had to do or remember for that day – making copies of a math worksheet, talking to someone about something, pay my social committee dues, etc. The problem was that I didn’t always remember what I had to remind myself of!! I tended to overcompensate for myself and make things way more complicated than they should have to be.
If I was going to have a substitute the next day, I usually stayed at school very late preparing everything. I wrote an even MORE detailed lesson plan for the sub, not leaving anything out, and rushed around gathering materials and books the sub would need, so she wouldn’t have to spend time looking for something. Sub plans took me even longer to do than my own. It was almost not worth taking the time off for the amount of work I created for myself preparing for a sub.