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Rebellious Robot

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Musings From a Not-So Master Teacher feels like he’s being transformed into a prototype with his school district’s new daily lesson plan requirement:

…it is in the subtle acts like a Lesson Plan Template that teachers lose their professional autonomy and academic freedom. The district now tells me what to teach, how to assess it, what my room should look like, when I should teach what information and with what strategies. From the planning to the delivery to the assessment, Big Brother is there for me, looking over my shoulder and encouraging uniformity.
8 Comments

Every teach has his/her own teaching style. By making every teacher teach the same way is probably not the best idea.

How do we escape this uniformity? What's next? Mind control? My lesson plans usually change from day to day according to how my students take to what is being learned! Those lessons don't dictate what is always going on in my room.

As a biologist I am horrified by this latest power grab by petty politicians and middle managers because living systems remain vibrant by evolving: each generation exhibits variety, some variants are more successful producers of offspring than others. Over time, the population changes. This is what should be happening to both content and pedagogy in our curriculum. By reducing variety we don't just get mediocrity, we see extinction.

We have been using pacing guides in our school district for a few years now. When I first heard about this mandate, I was horrified that someone would come in and tell me what I need to teach and when I need to teach it. I'm more fortunate, however, than my math colleagues. They are actually told to the page number of what they are supposed to teach for every single day. The Language Arts pacing guide offers more flexibility, so over the years, I've managed to "sneak in" some things that are specifically outlined on the pacing guide.

If there is one thing I've come to discover about teachers - we are an innovative and creative bunch. Pacing guides do not have to be the end to that creativity.

OK--we are talking about a "lesson plan template," correct, not the thought police? Teachers love to show how they are viewed less favorably than doctors (ignoring a few crucial details like years of education or the level of risk entailed in their work). I worked for some years with doctors. One valuable tool to ensure quality visits, particularly with regard to preventive care (based on data from chart reviews) was the creation of appropriate forms. Doctors don't do much writing, but they would go along with check-lists of various kinds. These were generally provided by, or at the direction of, a nurse who reviewed charts after every visit to see that patients--many of who tended to schedule only sick visits--were kept up to date on regular screenings of various indicators. The various forms not only served as a tool to ensure doc compliance, but also as a means to ensure that the reviewing RN could quickly ascertain what had been done.

It seems to me that a common template for lesson planning functions in the same way. I would expect that it ensures some needed elements are attended to (what are the kids supposed to be learning, how will we know if they have learned it, etc), as well as providing a common format so that someone with supervisory responsibility (a curriculum director or principal) can easily review the lessons planned by many different teachers for quality, curricular compliance, etc.

In the words of one RN that I worked with (who spent lots of time reviewing charts) "don't get your undies in a bunch."

I'm sorry to upset you, but I have to agree with Margo. A lesson plan template doesn't tell you how to teach. It does, however, keep you accountable for adequately planning your lessons and for keeping track of elements that should definitely (according to most teaching experts) be defined in your lesson plans. If you are being guided toward specific strategies, such as using cooperatively learning, studies show that varying delivery methods based on content gets results. As a small private school, we tend to get young, somewhat inexperienced teachers, and the lesson plan template was part of her initiative to get us all on the same vision about what good educational techniques look like. Not to mention that we are in the process of accreditation and we discovered that a lack of formally defined objectives was hurting us in the curriculum development process. So, I'm not sure that you need to freak out just yet.

I'm the one who wrote this and I want to respond to something here. A doctor does have to fill out certain forms and follow certain protocols. In many jobs, that is the case.

My thought is that there is a time and place for common forms. We use common assessments and analyze the data collectively. I love the process. We have a common schedule that we follow. We fill out our meeting agendas with a common form.

My main point is that there are areas in teaching where the teacher should have the creative control and the academic freedom if that teacher demonstrates results.

I have the highest test scores in the school. My students regularly log in over 2,000 hours of community service. They work extra hours doing documentaries and painting murals.

Having to take my lesson plans and reformat them into another person's format is a waste of time. I could be spending that time assessing student work.

The problem I see is that they create these structures for "accountability." Shouldn't the work my students create function as my accountability? The Blackboard Configuration, lesson plan format and scripted curriculum are all measures to hold bad teachers accountable. The problem is that the bad teachers rarely follow the procedures and so guys like me end up doing extra work when we could be focussing on student learning.

I'll be honest--a school's written curriculum can be a blessing or a curse depending on how it is used. For example, in our school, having a curriculum guide was a blessing since we are an overseas school and as such have a high turnover rate. It gave me, who has been in the school the longest and knows what needs to be done, the chance to provide some stability for our middle school teacher who was brand new this year. Our principal told her that she needed to use the scope and sequence in the order in which it is written. I immediately told the MS teacher that the scope and sequence was a guide, not a prescription. She didn't have to do it all in order, but she had to "hit it" at some point in the year due to standards. Curriculum mapping is also a trend that is actually very helpful because it helps identify gaps that are in the educational process. Bottom line, if you treat curriculum as a machine, it will act as a machine for you. If you treat it as a guide, it will guide you toward providing a complete and thorough education for your students.

I applaud you for the community service projects you do and also for your test scores. The documentary idea is also very cool. If community service and the documentaries help you accomplish objectives for your class, what is problem about documenting it? Yes, not every lesson plan will fit the template. So if there is no homework assignment, write N/A. Maybe you do have some reflection and closure after a community service experience, but just not every lesson day. That's ok. Make the template work for you, especially since a template is, like curriculum, supposed to be a guide. However, it can't hurt to define some objectives for some of these outside things like painting murals that you have your students do. Test scores do provide you with the "merit" for promotions, raises, status at the school, etc. But they don't provide you with daily accountability. And considering the debates I've read lately over the reliability of test scores among teachers, I wouldn't bank fully on them to prove yourself. Make yourself shine every day. I know one more piece of paperwork sucks, but if it ends up highlighting your assets as a teacher based on how you use it, it will only help you, not hurt you.

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Recent Comments

  • Anna: I'll be honest--a school's written curriculum can be a blessing read more
  • jtspencer: I'm the one who wrote this and I want to read more
  • Anna Ayala: I'm sorry to upset you, but I have to agree read more
  • Margo/Mom: OK--we are talking about a "lesson plan template," correct, not read more
  • ms_teacher: We have been using pacing guides in our school district read more

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