I have been thinking about planning and new teachers quite a bit lately. When I was a new teacher, everything I taught was new to me, and I didn’t have enough time to plan. I think a lot of schools are a similar schedule: six periods a day, teachers teach five and have one planning period. Not nearly enough. Many teachers, especially new teachers, need to use time outside of school to plan. Of course, nowadays the Internet makes a wide variety of lesson plans available to teachers, and I imagine planning is much easier for student teachers and new teachers than it was when I started teaching; however, the quality of a lot of this material is mixed, and I think it might sometimes be hard for new teachers to be able to discern the quality of lessons.
What can we do to help new teachers learn to plan?
- Mentorship: Model how to plan for units and lessons. Meet with new teachers to plan with them. I was provided with a bunch of templates when I was student teaching and sent on my way. It really took me years to figure out how to select activities that would meet learning objectives and instructional strategies for teaching those objectives. We need to be doing more of this in teacher preparation, and some time down the road when I am working with preservice English teachers, I will.
- Make them turn in their lesson plans: I expect many of you will disagree with this requirement, but I think regular feedback on and discussion about the lesson plans they create will really help new teachers. No one made me do that once I had my own classroom. In my first school, I turned in weekly plans to the Curriculum Director, but she never looked at them, or if she did, she never gave feedback. Of course I had to turn in lesson plans when I was student teaching, but once I no longer had to do so as a new teacher, I admit I went into the classroom winging it sometimes, and that’s not good.
- Engage in professional development with new teachers. Do a book or article study together. Discuss techniques. Our school is doing one on The Skillful Teacher to the left in the sidebar. It’s a good book: one I wish I had as a new teacher.
- Build in some sort of regular reflection: Jim Burke’s Teacher’s Daybook has space for reflection. Journals would work. For those who want interaction, I think blogs are perfect. My teaching has improved more than I can measure as a result of this blog.
Those are a few of my ideas. I’m convinced that better planning will lead to better classroom management in many cases (some schools have administrator issues too large to compensate for, and I’ve been there and done that in the past). If we can help teachers become more effective planners, we might retain teachers at a higher rate than we currently do.