Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Are lesson plans sacrosanct?

I'm teaching summer school this year, all of my students need a 12 month program. I spent some time today writing out some plans and really started to freak out. The  heart beating fast, sweaty palms, "I'm going to get fired" freak out.

I have heard and read that under the new Danielson - heavy evaluation system for NYC teachers that the written lesson plans will be subject to just as much scrutiny as the teaching / lesson., etc and that makes me nervous.

I';m going to use an old essay cliche here, sorry. In the dictionary sacrosanct is defined as sacred, inviolable; regarded as above and beyond interference, criticism.  Now nothing in heaven and earth is sacrosanct, Horatio - but most teachers worth their salt plan their work and work their plan and write it down.

I have written some horribly misspelled nonsensical looking, crappy  lesson plans that made sense for me and the paraprofessionals I work with and had incredibly successful lessons.

I have written brilliant lesson plans on nice paper with bullet points and that made sense for me and the paras and they have been duds.

I have written crappy lesson plans that observers like and understand.

I have written great lesson plans that observers  don't like and don't understand.

And every combination in between. That's the job, that's what we do. Use tried and true stuff - making adjustments along the way.  Use new stuff -  it's not always going to work the first time,  but you try until you can see if it becomes "true."

What has never happened to me is that I had a badly written / planned plan but went well with the kids and been evaluated in a negative manner because of that.  I'm worried about that now.

My best lesson plans are written for the students and adults in the room. Often the "why " or "how" of it all for an observer  is explained in a conference. Sometimes it takes that.

Not to bore you, but my kids learn best in small groups and in "center" type activities. They need practice and repetition and routine. What works best is doing center type activities that last 10 minutes  or so each and one of the centers is ALWAYS the "daily practice" - number / letter recognition etc. Then I do another center where they practice that in context of the theme or unit, because accessing learning and transferring and such. And a 3rd with writing or problem solving.... (I got it, I really do.)

But I freaked out today, because I feel like if it;s not written perfectly, one tiny thing doesn't connect, there is no "Stand and Deliver" moment with swelling tear jerking movements over the credits... or if someone doesn't get what I'm trying to do...then I will have done something "wrong."

It used to be that lesson plans were for the students and adults in the room, and perhaps the principal or AP in order to support the teacher best. Almost sacrosanct. If the lesson worked, then who cares if it's written in a certain way? If it didn't, maybe writing it out better will help next time. Again, that's the job, that's what we do. Not beyond reproach or criticism, but certainly not WRONG.

Now it seems lesson plans are for some other entity entirely. Dogma and sacrosanctity (sp?) for the sake of proving something to someone somewhere. I'm about to be an educational atheist - this guilt about perceived wrongdoing is worse than my residual Catholic guilt.

In the comments, I'd love to hear how you all feel about the sacrosanctity of lesson plans.

1 comment:

  1. My former principal weighed in on this topic. His take on lesson plans the idea is that any "good" lesson plan can be taught "successfully" by "any" teacher.

    Based on his viewpoints I see Principals seeking to gather up comprehensive lesson plans and a)use them to fire expensive, senior teachers; b)sell/publish them, c) use them to supply low-price new & replacement teachers, c) force all teachers to eventually teach standardized plans.