Monday, September 9, 2013

Screw the Scripted Lesson Plan

I have a challenging math class I'm supposed to teach. I haven't taught math in twelve years, I'm part-timing at a different school where kids don't know me and, these kids hate math. That mess is my job every other afternoon.

The first class of the year went downhill, crashed, burst into flames, and killed seven kittens. I wasn't much looking forward to a second day, but I plan as well as I could without knowing what I'm doing and without having much understanding of the kids in the room or the school culture. My plan was divided into short tasks to complete and hand in. It's not my favorite way to teach or learn but we need a structure and I figured this would serve.

It did serve, but what made the difference wasn't the plan, it was me.

I've been to a bunch of training meetings for scripted curricula designed by corporations (so they must be good!), bought by school administrators (they know what they're doing!) and shoved at teachers (the script will keep them from screwing it up!) who have to deliver them to students who don't want teaching from a can. The idea is that by taking all the variables out, it will go perfectly no matter the kids, the school, the teacher, and so on.

These scripted lessons work perfectly in meetings, but that's about it. In real classrooms they tend to be flat and lifeless rather than inspiring.

My lesson plan was pretty flat too.. It was a simple outline of tasks and times with a set of sheets for practice. Blah-blah-blah. It was the best laid plans of mice and teachers and it could easily have gone awry. Had I handed it off to a substitute, it surely would have. Luckily, I was there and that made all the difference.

I'm no great teacher, but I'm good and I like trying to get reluctant high school students to learn. While it's nice to have a class of kids who love learning, I lean more toward the ones who ask, "what the fuck we gotta learn this shit for?" That's my crowd.

It's a challenging class. One kid hung out the window. Another looked only at his phone. A third protested that she just isn't ever going to do division. I asked the kid to come in from the window and let him take his time doing it. I what kind of phone the other guy has and why he also carries an iPod. I told the young woman not to do division because we could probably work around it.

The challenge of the class isn't forcing them to learn, it's learning how to properly teach them and I'm more often than not up to that challenge. I don't need any script to make it happen. I write my own, then improvise off of it. I say to teachers, screw the scripts and write on.