The lesson plan trick: The magician’s secret

Jose, I think your post really gets at just the tip of my frustration. If my colleague weren’t mentoring a first year teacher in best practices, I might not have had a problem with the absent lesson plan book as long as she had a plan. But, the thing is, it was more a matter […]

Jose,

I think your post really gets at just the tip of my frustration. If my colleague weren’t mentoring a first year teacher in best practices, I might not have had a problem with the absent lesson plan book as long as she had a plan. But, the thing is, it was more a matter of ownership of her practice, like you mentioned, than disorganization. She was using plans from 3 or 4 years ago.You really can’t make magic happen without looking at the audience in front of you.

In our Head Start classrooms every student has at least two individual goals that are revised based on observation and assessment in an Individual Learning Plan four times a year. Mathematically this teacher’s planning responsibilities look like this:

 1 Teacher’s practice = (19 students x 2 goals) *4 (parent interactions for goal adjustment based on assessment) * (38 key experiences (read as standards)) * (26 upper case letters) * (26 lower case letters) * (26 letter sounds) * (Rhyming)  * (vocabulary) etc….

In this complex formula, in which early childhood teachers are responsible for everything from wiping noses to developing algebra readiness, teachers are accountable to parents and students at an individual level. My colleague’s lesson plans were to be displayed in the “Parent Corner” for all parents to see. Yes, in our Head Start program we publicly display lesson plans as an accountability measure and a way to teach parents about our curriculum. The Individual Learning Plans were to be incorporated into the plan in substantive ways. If it weren’t actually written in our program policies and procedures that our teachers would have a lesson plan book, I probably wouldn’t have been frustrated.

I can see how that auto-pilot software could actually generate lesson plans for teaching a content area for a quote “medium level” learner in algebra but, that software could never speak for those parents about their individual goals for their children or know what story to tell the student, based on their prior experience, that would connect the content to their life. Those researchers’ software could never incorporate parent or student voice in the learning cycle. A robot can’t do magic tricks because their is no responsiveness to the audience. A robot can’t generate that spark that is there between human beings.

I know that you have taught well for years. If I were in a similar position, with expert understanding of content and deep relationships with students I might approach teaching the same way. In some ways your idea of learning unit oriented lesson plans makes a lot of sense. When lesson plans are developed for the teacher and there is no audience besides the student short hand works fine. It is probably preferable so that you can put energy into other things like mentoring novice teachers. I know that your relationship with your students enables you to be expressive in your communication and teaching. You probably don’t even need a planning book except to show administrators that you have actually made a plan for the magic they see happen. Or maybe supervisors don’t even care.

I believe, as a profession, we need to start thinking about a wider audience. I wonder if this is one of the locks on the teacher’s lounge that you talked about at the SOS March. If we are really trying to be transparent and student centered in our approach to teaching we need to individualize for student learning in a very public fashion. Maybe lesson plans, instead of working as documentation of what was meant to happen in a teachers classroom, could be a lever for a creating a student centered profession.