Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Key to Handling the Unexpected...Being Prepared for It!

Ask any of my students and they will tell you that one of my constant preachings is on the need to fight procrastination.  Unfortunately it is a sermon which often falls on deaf ears with students, but the importance of preparation is a real thing, especially in teaching.

Most teachers, like me, undoubtedly enter each day with at the least a vague plan for the day, and at most a formal lesson plan.  I'm somewhere in between, largely due to my utter disdain for "formal lesson plans".  I believe in good planning, but the tedious form taught when completing teacher preparation programs has always seemed like busy work.

Planning, however, is a key variable to successful teaching.  I often use my off-time in the summer to map out my ideal plan.  I prepare a blank calendar for the semester, enter holidays and other interruptions which I know about, and then go about setting my plan for what will happen if every class meets for the entire class period every day, without anything unexpected taking place.  I think about what we will do if we run short on time or have time leftover.  Like I said, "ideal".

In thirteen years of teaching I have never actually used my ideal plan.  And I'm ok with that.  I know, going into the year, that this ideal plan won't work.  I know I will have to move things around, or even cut things.  I know that snow days, delays, pep sessions, convocations, etc. will cut into class time.  I know that there will be times that I will need to give extra time to a subject, or that an opportunity for a great class discussion will present itself.  In short, I know that the unexpected is going to take place.  But I have found that it is much easier to handle the unexpected if your prepared.

With a calendar in front of me, I can see what can be moved, and to when.  I can see what can be cut, if needed.  Most might say that having these kinds of plans in place makes the classroom too concrete; quite the opposite.  Being prepared in such a way allows me the flexibility to plan ahead for what may come, and ensure that I am covering material the kids need to know.  If I think that more time needs to be spent on a given subject, or that the class would really benefit from an informed discussion, I can look at my plan and make the necessary moves.

Others might say I'm over-preparing...OK, I'll admit, that observation seems to be more on-point.  I might be over-prepared.  But weathering the storm of a sea that promises, like all, to be tumultuous requires me to ensure that I have a sea-worthy ship.

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