How do you plan for that?

A former colleague and new-to-grade teacher recently asked if I’d share my plan book with her. I was, of course, flattered by that request and, since planbook.edu hadn’t yet disabled my account (retirement = less out-of-pocket spending), I was happy to send her a PDF of my old book. With footnotes. Why?

Planbook in September

Planbook in September

Well, I realized as I looked at the attachment I was sending that throughout the year, my plan book changes in content and context. Quite drastically actually.

Like most everyone, at the beginning of the school year, I focus on routines. The required “I can” statements and goals and objectives reflect that. Then as I begin to know the students more, those statements become more language-based and focused.  Adjustments like this are natural to see. As a teacher learns more about what the students need, the focus shifts to the academics and meeting curricular goals.

As I flipped through the year I also noted when something that caught my attention during professional development was incorporated into planning. The structure of the day – the schedule of what happens when – morphs to fit what is more comfortable for my students and for me.

Yes there are immovables; Special Education schedules can rarely be changed once they are set at the beginning of a school year. Still tweaking and changing to accommodate what flow is best for students is an ongoing process.

Planbook in June

Planbook in June

My comment as I sent the attached plans off? Looks like by the end of the school year I finally got it right. Or at least close to something we all could live with.

How do you plan for that? I’m thinking, you don’t. You go with the flow.

Scheduling (I’m dancing as fast as I can)

How do you start planning for a new school year? I begin with thinking about my daily schedule.

At the beginning of my career, this was more problematic because teachers weren’t given all the contributing factors (like lunch, recess, and special schedules) until the day before the kids came. That made for a long night before school started. This year, our principal has made the decision that lunch times will stay the same as will specials. Knowing when students will out of the classroom for allied arts and lunch is a giant help in planning for instruction.

The wild card this year is that there are many mandated time allotments and not enough time in the day to meet all of them. Teachers in this district are asked to provide time on task for almost as many minutes as there are in the entire school day. That leaves no time to get to point A from point B, no time to transition kids from one activity to another, no time for recess or bathrooms. Sorry, no can do.

scheduleSo, today I began to triage what I hope will be our class schedule.

When I try out a times on paper, I like to think about what worked with my students. I sketch and re-sketch on paper, let it simmer for a while, come back, and give it another shot. Hopefully, I have something that will make sense and be able to record these ideas on a spreadsheet before setting up any kind of plan book.

My nature is that I like to mix things up halfway through the school year, but because I am teaching with a Special Education partner with an even more complicated schedule, that’s not always possible. So whatever schedule I create needs to meet the mandates from our Central Office and School Committee, be natural for students, and be possibly in place for the whole 180 days.

Yes, I am dancing as fast as I can, and school hasn’t even started.