I read an article in the NY Post entitled, "Teachers sue to keep lesson plans away from higher-ups." Whose name should appear in it, but Mona Davids again! It seems she has nothing better to do, but to become the legal bane of existence for teachers, first with tenure and now with lesson plans. I understand that she wants children to have the best education, but I also understand that she has very little understanding of the teaching profession.
In this case, Ms. Davids seems to put an undue stress upon the importance of the lesson plan. Lesson plans can be like window dressing. I have seen typed lesson plans, hitting all guideposts, set in stone. But I have also realized that in the wrong hands, this lesson plan would fail terribly. I have also realized that the lesson plan fails to grab my interest and, most assuredly, would have a similar effect upon my students.
The Post article states that the union "defended a teacher who 'merely strung together a list of song titles' and called that a lesson plan. For an education course, I once created an overambitious lesson plan to teach the 1960s through many songs. Looking back now, with loads of experience, I understand that one or two of those titles might have filled an entire class period, perhaps "Give a Damn," "Masters of War" and "Ball of Confusion." Depending upon the expertise of the teacher, three song titles might work brilliantly or hopelessly flop. A lesson plan, in and of itself, tells you next to nothing.
As a new teacher, I always wanted to have more than enough material for fear I would be caught with nothing to say. I rarely needed all that. It might have looked great on paper, but my lesson plan only worked as I amended and adapted it to meet the interests of my students. I promise you could take the best Common-Core aligned plans from some curriculum guide, put them in the hands of some real teachers and watch chaos unfold.
A teacher once admitted to me that he has crafted lessons on a napkin. Rather than being horrified, I realized that with just a few notes, pivotal questions and reminders to one's self, a teacher can put enough on paper to more than educate children and awaken a lifetime love of learning. Teaching is more of what is inside of an individual, knowledgeable and caring, coming out to directly meet the students, than, what's written on a piece of two-dimensional paper. And, experience definitely helps.
In my mind, it is so much better than the scenario of a teacher with an excessively long lesson plan serving as a security blanket; anxiously, the teacher is always looking down at it for guidance, rather than at the kids. The teacher fails to digest their ideas and take them a step higher. Teachers with overly planned lessons, picture-perfect on paper, for the most part, seem excessively nervous and self-absorbed in some grand scheme detached from realities. Their timing may be poor; yet, the lesson plows on no matter the response of the students. I learned my first--and maybe most important--lesson in teaching high-school kids on my first day student teaching: Flexibility means more than the most brilliant plan.
The best judge of a teacher's performance is a living, breathing administrator who has succeeded as a classroom teacher, just observing the class, not a piece of paper. It is an administrator who has observed many teachers and values the world of academia as something distinct from the world of business. It is an administrator who takes his or her job seriously and grows in it. It is an administrator who remembers his or her first days in the classroom and the pitfalls averted or obstacles overcome. It is not any individual eyeing the "artifact" of a lesson plan.
I never teach one lesson plan the same way twice. New ideas occur to me along the way. One class has greater interest in one question than another. A student raises a point one period which takes us in a new direction. I am always reacting and reflecting upon what my students say and do. This is what makes for a good teacher. It is not a piece of paper.
When we had to hand in artifacts this year, I did not hand in my own lesson plan because I knew I had to make it look "snazzy," aligned to something detached from realities. I modified some lesson from a book. I would never practically use that lesson. It wouldn't work. And, I'm pretty sure my students would be thankful that I didn't deliver it as a script! Scripted learning, I believe, when followed nearly verbatim, appeals to teachers who lack confidence, skills or souls.
I don't mind admitting that occasionally, much to my horror, one of my lesson plans gets lost in tons of paperwork at school. With twenty years of teaching under my belt and knowledge of the kids before me, I can reconstruct a plan in less than five minutes. And, you know what, no one will ever suspect the calamity that seemed to befall me.
Lesson plans are like window dressing. I will always want one on my clipboard, but it doesn't truly speak to what I do with my students. Without a live person in the classroom assessing the execution of lesson plans, one may be brutally misrepresented by a piece of paper. The best teachers may look bad and the bad teachers may appear good. In my mind, and particularly at this stage in my career, the excessive paperwork necessitated to create picture-perfect lesson plans for collection would be a gross waste of my time as well as that of my students--just as Ms. Davids' crusade on behalf of window dressing seems to be a gross waste of her time and money.