So it would seem that, for a number of years, I’ve suffered from sleep apnea. It’s a relief to be diagnosed, not as lazy or uncaring or complacent; but as simply exhausted and unable to sleep. There are consequences, both positive and negative. I have energy, I have hope, I have the ability to do the everyday tasks of living. I have to wear a mask each night, and like some sort of strange twist on the vampire mythos, I must return to a live power point each night.
I’m at school, it is 6:15 pm and it’s the night of parent/teacher interviews. The night finishes at 8pm. It’s cold, windy and dark, with the look of imminent rain. The weather is keeping the parents mostly at bay. I should write reports, but I’m not. I would be planning my beloved’s anniversary/birthday gift but I’m without a phone or wallet.
My coffee is cold, that’s annoying. The deputy principal pops in for a chat about literacy. I’m interested but I think he’s just touching base. We have a giggle about a mutual college who is being stubborn and difficult again. He leaves and I’m thinking I should visit the toilet. Talk to other teachers.
No insights, no realizations. Just the mundane tasks of everyday living.
Teaching is a funny game. In truth, it’s a bit like gardening; the secret is in the preparation. Good soil, the right fertilisers, and a consideration of the plants allow a gardener to have an entire garden that thrives. If you were to ignore these things and plant anywhere on unimproved soil, you get substandard results.
My friend Shane taught me that in gardening, soil preparation is the first key of gardening. Plant placement is second, and regular care is the third. A classroom is similar. Too many teachers spend too little time on preparation, and then spend enormous amounts of time on placement (and replacement) and care of the classroom.
A well planned lesson should almost run itself. Engaged students persist in an activity because they care about the overarching ideas and know that they are working towards a meaningful goal. They know that the assessment will actually test them and that their learning will be held accountable.
So we start with the goal in mind. We then create assessment that tests these learning goals, and from that we plan our lessons. It sounds easy but so does being a pilot when you describe it as “Take off, fly in the right direction, and then land your plane”.
I’m hoping that my school’s English curriculum develops some more rigour and also some more innovative approaches towards teaching literacy and literature as we go through this process of planning. I remain hopeful!