Our 1-year consecutive B.Ed. program has begun and I’ve (Clive) had two meetings with my School & Society class. The student teachers are wonderful: committed, talented, experienced in many ways, worldly-wise but friendly. Where do such people come from? Why do they continue to go into teaching when it’s so hard to find a job? Anyway, I’m glad they do.
Our second class was on program development and I stressed that, when they become teachers, they will have much less teaching-time than they thought and will need to prioritize, be flexible, and make choices. This led to a discussion of the extensive unit and lesson plans they will be expected to submit during their program, and the massive long-range plan their future principal will require of them. I related how the teachers in our longitudinal study use shorter lesson and unit plans – and then very flexibly – and seldom refer to their long-range plans. They have trouble seeing the point of such detailed planning exercises.
We agreed that they have no choice – during the program and later – but to fulfill such requirements. However, it makes a big difference to see such planning as a “requirement” they don’t necessarily agree with – rooted in traditional “transmission” models – rather than a “state of the art” approach to teaching. Then they can produce the detailed plans quickly and without undue angst, and get on with the serious business of teaching.
Several students expressed relief at being able to approach it this way; and I saw it as an important window on the complexities of effective, autonomous teaching. It is true that our teaching has to be comprehensive, and we have to know where we’re going. But highly detailed lesson plans that we follow to the letter aren’t the best way to get there. What room does this leave for individualization, student construction of knowledge, and our own on the spot learning as teachers? For my own 3-hour class I usually have about 6 main topics, of which we get to 3 or 4 and often in a different order and with different time allocations than I had planned. And of course we discuss other topics that weren’t even on my list….