Getting back the feel in the classroom

Last year, on the first day, I was new to my school— a stranger. This year I got hugs. Yahtzee!

The dust is settling in my room from a nerve-addled, lightning-fast first day of class. For each 100-minute block of my 11th and 12th graders, I’d planned a farrago of activities— a literary scavenger hunt in teams, a PowerPoint presentation/extravaganza on conducting high-level discussions, the Obama speech with a writing prompt…

In each class, we barely got through the introductory sharing and mandatory syllabus review. The period wound up being a sit-for-100-minutes talkfest.

On no other day of the school year would this okay, but I milked the “honeymoon period” leeway and we got through it. My rationale is that the good will we’re currying will set a good foundation for our learning environment.

Over-planning isn’t necessarily bad, but I’ll be a more effective teacher when I get into a rhythm of more clearly visualizing how my classes will play out. This will take a few weeks, but I’ll continue to err on the side of over-planning.

During my first days ever as a teacher, I was woefully under-planned. What a nightmare. I allotted 45 minutes for a writing activity that took 25. I planned a “class rules” activity for 20 minutes, but it took 10. I invented stuff on the fly and it showed, setting a disastrous tone for the year.

I think teachers should meet with a colleague or supervisor every couple weeks to talk lesson planning. Just talking it though and stepping out of the isolation of one’s plan-book can shape things more effectively and realistically within the allotted class time.

Over-planning is safe, though not ideal. Under-planning or boring-planning– especially by new teachers— must be protected against.

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