This is a response to #Teach2Teach Question 1 from Garrett, about balancing “teaching” and “planning” (full question below). Special thanks to Amy Lenord and Karen Tharrington for starting the #Teach2Teach movement and to those who have responded to their call!
Here is Garrett’s question:
“How do all these teachers balance the workload between teaching and planning? Now that I am getting ready to perform all this work, I am beginning to wonder how anyone manages it at all.”
So far, I have had the pleasure of reading Amy Lenord’s response, Colleen Hayes’s response, and Allison Wienhold’s response. I agree with their excellent advice and recommend that you go read it! Rather than repeat much of what they have said, I’d like to encourage an approach that goes hand in hand with their recommendations.
I have found it helpful to distinguish between two important components of planning/preparation: preparing a lesson or course and preparing myself to teach. The former is about planning a certain kind of class, agenda, or curriculum. The latter is about becoming a certain kind of person.
Lots of kinds of people are great teachers. It’s not about having a certain personality, being introverted or extroverted, or being old or young. But great teachers have certain things in common. Here are four “They knows” and four “They cans” that are true of most great teachers:
Each of these deserves its own post. For now, I’ll just highlight some connections to the planning-vs-teaching question:
Very few of the four knows and four cans are achieved by “planning.” Do you need to plan? Of course. But the more you develop these knows and cans, the less time you’ll need to spend on it, and the less you’ll worry about it. Also, growing in the four knows and the four cans will always help you be a better teacher, whereas spending a bunch of time planning a lesson often won’t. If, at any given moment, you have to choose between planning a specific lesson and doing something that will help you grow in the knows or cans, go with the knows and cans.
In the last few years, during which I’ve been teaching six different courses at a time, I’ve spent very little time on explicit lesson planning—maybe 10-15 minutes per 75-minute block. This is not because I just do whatever canned lesson is on the schedule or because I recycle old lessons. It’s because (a) I work a lot on the knows and cans, and (b) I have some practices in place that reduce planning time:
Quick hits—some other ways I cut down on planning/prep time
A final note: A good teacher is prepared to teach. This means having an idea about what will happen in class, but often it also means being able to respond to whatever starts happening and being willing and able to do something different than one planned, all in service of the students and their language acquisition, and this comes from being a certain kind of person with certain go-to practices.
Hope this helps! Feedback and follow-up questions are, as always, welcome.