How to Avoid the Tyranny of the Lesson Plan: Planning Less to Teach Better

Teaching is a daily intimidating adventure, one that requires we find the confidence to enter each lesson with the board empty. Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.
  • Rethink what counts as preparing to teach. Preparing to teach includes a teacher’s time spent being a student themselves, reading, researching, thinking, discussing with other teachers, etc. While Tulley recognizes many young professors lament so much time planning as a distraction from doing scholarship, I would argue all teachers at every level are preparing to teach by being scholarly; the two must not be in conflict, in other words.
  • Consider first and foremost what students will be doing in daily lesson plans. As I have noted above, too often teaching and planning to teach remain focused on teacher behaviors. The key, I think, to avoiding the tyranny of the lesson plan is to recognize that the essence of learning is student behavior, students being actively engaged in behaviors the teacher fosters and negotiates, but does not orchestrate.
  • Seek ways to build self-confidence by always being a student of how to teach and the content of courses being taught. Teaching is a state of constant learning and growing. That process occurs outside the classroom, but also in the classroom every day. Our teaching goal is to become adept at improv, not playing a role.
  • Resist the allure of being a martyr. Teaching has an unhealthy culture that includes who can make the best case about their martyrdom — lamenting in the teachers’ lounge or posting on Facebook about hours and hours spent planning and grading. There is clearly something compelling about this, but I believe it is ultimately not personally or professionally healthy.

P. L. Thomas, Professor of Education Furman University, taught high school English before moving to teacher education. https://radicalscholarship.wordpress.com/

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