The Impossibility of Lesson Planning

I taught a lesson this week to a nice group of thirty kids in year 10. It would not be too rude, I hope, to describe them as slightly lower attaining, but for a first meeting with a one-off teacher they were as kind as one might hope, and in the plenary they said that if there were a next time with the same teacher then the thing that would improve the lesson is that they would be more respectful. I liked them.


It was technically a very strong lesson without being in danger of being inspiring in any way. It would probably have got the top end of good if observed and graded, though any observer might have struggled to find ways it could have been improved without scratching around for a lie or two. On a good week, a proper teacher might want to have taught a lesson of a similar standard once a day or so.


The process was as follows. Their real teacher had sent me a stock of their previous essays, I had read through all of them taking notes as to the things they might be able to improve on. I created a Powerpoint and a five-page booklet with a chief activity, a subsidiary activity and a final redrafting task that we didn’t quite finish. The Powerpoint started off with quotes from their essays with bits I liked (in order to big them up a bit), then we went through a True of False activity about essay writing; there was a brief diversion into using parenthetical conjunctive adverbs and then they had to go through a series of prescribed stages to improve a piece of text. It was a solid workaday lesson, profoundly competent and, perhaps, not the kind of thing I am known for. It was a bit too talky, and I was nervous. But I felt there was useful learning and, if asked, the kids would have me back, I think.


But the point of this brief blog is that it took me eight hours to write it!


I sat at my desk at nine o clock the previous morning with their essays and, with a break for lunch and one for dinner, I finished the last stroke on the Powerpoint at eight-thirty at night. A real teacher does not have eight hours of free time to write a lesson: they have to sketch it up in the morning, or when they are knackered after school, or in the one free period they have when a meeting has been arranged. Why do so many teachers leave the profession? Because it is an important job that is entirely impossible to do properly and because they are held accountable on the impossible by people who could not achieve it themselves. Every teacher would like to produce lesson after lesson of solidly good work that nourishes and leaves the kids with substantially more than they came in with. But, quite simply, it cannot be done.

Added Fri, 22 Apr 2016 21:19

web site by island webservices