Friday, July 17, 2009

What I Learned while Teaching Secondary Science (Part 2): Planning

This is a continuation of my Top Ten List of Things I Learned while Teaching Secondary Science:

#9)“If you fail to plan, you're planning to fail”

During the ongoing rush of the teacher workweek, it can be cumbersome to write detailed lesson plans for the time allotted to each class, but it is the successful teacher who makes time to do so. Many a first-year teacher succumbs to the peril of an unplanned 5 or 10 minutes of class, not knowing of the dangers that lie therein.

Before becoming a teacher, I had no idea of the importance of good planning. I didn't need to. All of my teachers and bosses did all of the critical planning and I just filled in the gaps with my own efforts. There were individual tasks and projects, of course, but none that required the level of detail that teaching does.

Given that a class period might last approximately 55 minutes each day, that means that all of those 55 minutes need to have a purpose if students are ever to reach content goals such as state standards. A purpose-driven teacher structures his lesson plans knowing what his students need to do at each moment of the class period to maximize learning. This is a tedious process as a beginning teacher, and while being a task that gets easier over time, the siren song of other “equally important” duties is hard to resist when one doesn't know any better.

Planning is by far the most important task of a purpose-driven teacher. An unplanned segment of class time swiftly descends into chaos as young minds quickly find other sources of education and entertainment, such as learning what their friends are doing that weekend or honing their fadeaway shot at the garbage can with some crumpled paper. This failure to plan leads to lost time and wasted chances to advance toward learning objectives, not to mention more headaches with the increased need for disciplinary action.

This axiom holds outside of the classroom, too, and I certainly would not have learned it so quickly had I not been a teacher. Now that I'm continuing on to a science graduate program, I need to create a vision of where I want to be in the next 5 years after I'm finished with the program, along with a schedule of events leading me toward that vision. This blueprint will help guarantee that I am making good progress toward my personal and professional goals, and will continually inform me of what those specific goals are.

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