I recently read a blog post about a 'one sentence lesson plan' (more on this in a moment) that made me think of my first teacher planner. When I first started teaching I had this really cool planner. I had plans to write in it every day. I was a reeeeal teacher now. I made good efforts to write down all of my lessons and activities. I thought I was doing awesome because I was planned and uber organized. I loved it. It felt nice. I relied on that planner, depending on it to guide me in my direction for the day/week. However, something weird happened... I started feeling trapped by the planner and found myself saying, "we don't have time for this or that..." I had self imposed due dates and couldn't easily deviate from my plan because I really liked it nice and neat. The pages and the class... However, after ten years in, I know that teaching is messy and unpredictable. Not everything fits in a little box. Students included. There's a lot of unexpected occurrences that happen daily. For example, the unexpected discussions. Sure, it's not in my planner- but it's super awesome when it really happens. Sometimes you can't plan for great things - they just happen.
After some reflection I started to change it up. I went to a digital planner and thought I could move things around more easily if my plans changed. Cool. Did that help? Nope. Same story. Different planner.
So after I moved to the high school and was tasked with creating curriculum from the ground up... my planning changed. Writing curriculum with very broad standards seems like an awesome freedom, doesn't it? There's no step by step guide and no definitive categories. Not only do you have to create all of your resources, lessons and activities, you also have to engage students. No pressure there. :)
When I first started writing curriculum I always envisioned where I wanted my students to be, what skills I wanted them to have and what their project outcomes may look like. I would section it up and make sure skills and concepts overlapped. I had to know what the end looked like to work toward the beginning. The beautiful backward design. An oldie but a goodie. It forces you to really know what you want from students. Define it in a way that is goal oriented. It's so simple that sometimes I think we forget about it. I actually forget I even do it because I'm so practiced in it. Now, instead of seeing things through just a projects lens, I am constantly thinking about how I can make sure to weave in skills that will help students when they leave ROHS. I also try to connect what we are talking about or working on to a larger concept or idea. Sometimes I think students only think as far as we give them space to, and I want to make sure I give them infinite space.
After creating a curriculum built on what I really want from my students in the very end, I found I became more flexible in my day to day expectations of myself and my students. I plan a day at a time and it's always based around where we left off the previous day. I am very aware of where I want my students to be and that there is some looming expiration time over my head... but somehow I always seem to hit that date and it all comes together.
The one sentence lesson plan made me think about being flexible and reminded me that knowing the why is the most important piece. Norman Eng's makes the one sentence lesson plan super simple. It addresses the WHAT, HOW and WHY.
I love this because it keeps it simple and really focuses in on the true pieces of a lesson. I'm all about the WHY. When I considered taking my current job, I had to do a lot of thinking about why I would want to accept a position that took me outside of the classroom that I loved so much. I had to come up with goals and a vision of how I saw this position 10 years down the road. I not only had to see it, I had to get other people to see it as well.
I used Simon Sinek's Ted Talk concept (I love Simon Sinek!) again in a different way when talking with MACUL attendees about flexible active learning spaces. Ultimately, they needed to know why they were going to make this switch. Was it to keep their jobs? Get new furniture? Attract more students to certain spaces? Etc. It didn't matter what it was, but they needed to know why they were going to do it and then develop goals to hit, to meet their own why.
I find when you know the WHY, you then are more passionate about your work because you truly believe in it. I would say that the same rings true for our students. When they know why they are doing something, they are more passionate (maybe a strong word) about what they are doing in the classroom. The hope is that they will get to a point where they truly believe in what they are doing and are passionate about their work (inside and outside of the classroom).
So, let me challenge you to think about the WHY next time you are planning a lesson, taking another job, making a move, changing the status quo, etc. Know the why and plan with the end in mind, but know it's not always going to be nice and neat. Such is life. :)