Lesson plans. Those two words had a tendency to strike dread and uneasiness into every fiber of my being. Lesson plans were synonymous for “busy work” and “soul-sucking.” I could go on, but I probably shouldn’t. The inescapable truth is that I will be doing lesson planning.
Lesson planning. Lesson planning. I will be making tedious lists that must include motivation for students and how I’m going to “test” their knowledge later. I need to include vocabulary and definitons my students might learn. I need to create essential questions. I need to have objectives set forth. I need to have the standards that apply copied into my plan. I will be planning for children I have never met. I will be planning for abilities I can’t predict. I will be planning for interests I don’t know.
Last Wednesday in class was the first time I have ever heard the words “lesson plans” and didn’t immediately feel a sense of deep dread. In all my education classes up to this point, I’ve been told to go and make lesson plans. It may seem obvious for others, but I had never made a lesson plan before. I didn’t know where to begin. All I was given was vague instructions and expected to know how to move forward.
Dr. Ellington took me somewhere no other professor had dared adventure. On the board, she started from the very beginning. We started at the whole year. The class narrowed down year-long goals to focus on. We broke down our goals into steps to arrive there. Our steps moved into possible units (genres, themes, cultures, social justice). Our units broke into time frames that might best serve the purpose of the unit (two weeks, four weeks, six weeks). Finally our units broke down into 50 minute windows.
With that, I realized I could survive lesson planning. I also realized what lesson planning can be.There is a danger in forgetting the students, their interests, their learning styles, and their abilities. We teach people, and not robots.
This week, I’ve been reading “Planning a Year” by Randy Bomer. He writes that teachers should plan for real people. With lesson planning, I think it can become too easy to have tunnel vision on what will be taught instead of on the students who will be learning it.
Nancy Atwell in “How to Teach Writing” talks about being a “creationist.” She was so focused on crafting and creating assignments, granted they were ones that had purpose and meaning to her. However, she soon realized that because of her emphasis on her assignments, she wasn’t learning in her classroom. She was simply “tending to creation.”
Planning for people we don’t know can take us down a dangerous road of inflexibility. We must always remember that we are learners in the classroom as well, and we must be willing to adapt from observation.
I do believe that lesson planning is a fantastic start to getting organized and having ideas deeply fleshed out. Planning, though it can be too tedious and too detail-oriented at times, can help me examine my goals and plot a course to reach them.
Lesson planning is both dangerous and beneficial. I just need to remember that I teach people. I teach students with personalities, varying degrees of interest, diverse cultural backgrounds, and different ability levels in the classroom. I cannot always plan for that.