Lesson planning takes lots of effort for both beginning and seasoned teachers. There are always new curricula to contend with, new teaching methodologies and new students to consider. Hence, no teacher can use the exact same lesson plan throughout her teaching career without tweaking something. The difference is that a seasoned teacher may have tools to help her consider what lessons plans may or may not work in her class, and what she can do when a lesson plan is not working.
First and foremost, lesson planning, whether executed in the teacher’s head or presented in black and white, is integral in a good teacher’s list of duties. The more thoroughly thought out her lesson plan is, the more likely it will work and not fail. Nevertheless, while the teacher can mentally work out alternative solutions to possible hitches in the lesson plan, she is unlikely to be able to predict if the attendance will be a hundred percent, or whether her special needs student will not throw a tantrum and disrupt her lesson.
When a lesson plan is not working, there are tools that a teacher can use to salvage the time that might otherwise go wasted. The teacher can either choose to be reactive, which is to respond to the situation presented during the lesson. On the other hand, she can choose to be proactive, and try to conjure possibilities of hitches such as a concept being too difficult to master, and try to provide more scaffolding in the plans. There are also indicators or yardsticks that a teacher can use to determine the level of success in her lesson.
There are some things that a teacher can do when a lesson plan is not working. The first thing is not to push the panic button, especially when being observed by a supervisor. While a teacher may wish that the ground would open up and swallow her, the first thing is actually to do nothing but take a step back and observe what the students are actually doing and thinking. If they seem to be taking a different route to meet the same objective, go with the flow and see how you can change your thoughts to involve what they are doing.
Consider approaching a more experienced teacher to pop by and give her input on the situation. The teacher may be able to perceive the problem and offer a simple solution so that the lesson can continue. The teacher need not leave the classroom but send a reliable student to pass a note to a colleague whom she knows is available at that moment. State the class and clearly worded appeal for help. Colleagues who have been asked to read the lesson plan during the planning stage may be able to understand the situation better.
If the teacher or students have made an absolute mess of the lesson, stop the lesson, collect back all the items and move on to another lesson after taking a breather. Then go back to the drawing board and rethink the lesson plan or throw it out altogether and start anew. The teacher may wish to consult a few students to find out what was difficult for them during the lesson. She may also want to garner feedback from the more experienced teachers.
In rethinking the lesson, the teacher may wish to reconsider her lesson objectives and the strategies used to reach them. Is she having too many objectives that she is trying to achieve? Is the duration for each part of her lesson too short? Is it her mode of delivery? Is her language to abstract or age-inappropriate? How can she paraphrase her instructions to make them easier to understand and follow? Are there lesson plans that she can consult?
Lesson planning and execution are skills that may take years to perfect, so teachers who have just joined the profession need to be more realistic in their expectations of their teaching abilities. The main idea is to quickly understand the areas that need to be sharpened, and ensure better lesson planning and execution for other lessons.