Jun 27 2008

The school year is a marathon, not a sprint

I’ve been around a lot of TFA institutes, starting with my own in 1991. Now that I’m a veteran teacher, I wonder if the institute culture gets CMs ready for the reality of lesson planning.

I remember a lot of CMs pulling all nighters in preparing a one hour lesson. This is a bad habit to get into. New teachers should learn to plan efficiently. That means that a one hour lesson takes about two hours to plan. It’s true that a really great lesson with a well structured activity can take several more hours, but you should realize that when you’re actually teaching your own class in the fall, you won’t have time to create those great activities on a daily basis.

Every CM should get experience planning some ‘normal’ lessons. These aren’t the lessons that they’re going to be talking about for years to come, but that’s OK. I think a ‘great’ teacher is really only ‘great’ 40% of the time. Then 40% of the time, they’re ‘good.’ 15% of the time, they’re just ‘OK’, and then if you take some risks that don’t pay off or you just didn’t have enough time to plan well and sleep, 5% of the time, they’re pretty bad.

But since CMs only get an average of an hour a day to teach, they want to make sure that their lessons are very creative and unusual. It’s good to learn how to make those types of lessons also, but don’t neglect the basics. A ‘regular’ lesson where there’s ten minutes of direct instruction followed by some class discussion and then guided practice and independent practice is the ‘bread-and-butter’ of the teacher. Even though you might think that type of lesson is too boring for the summer school, you should get some experience doing that now since you’ll be doing it a lot in the fall.

If you haven’t already, please check out my YouTube TFA workshop (see below)

2 Responses

  1. When evaluating Rhee’s pancormerfe in DC, isn’t it better to look at progress rather than the level of pancormerfe in 2011? To be clear, I don’t know the numbers, so perhaps the progress numbers are unimpressive. Again, though, you seem to be looking at the wrong numbers to demonstrate that her efforts were ineffective. (Not to mention that you’d expect the reforms might take some time to make a difference. It would be interesting to look at DC pancormerfe since she has left as well.) In any case, how did DC’s NAEP scores compare to pre-Rhee?

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By a somewhat frustrated 1991 alum

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