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Preparation and planning are a critical component of effective teaching. Lack thereof will lead to failure. If anything, every teacher should be over prepared. Good teachers are almost in a continuous state of preparation and planning. They are always thinking about the next lesson. The impact of preparation and planning is tremendous on student learning. A common misnomer is that teachers only work from 8:00 - 3:00, but when the time for preparing and planning is accounted for, the time increases significantly.
Make the Time to Plan
Teachers get a planning period at school, but that time is rarely used for “planning”. Instead, it is often utilized to contact parents, conduct a conference, catch up on emails, or grade papers. True planning and preparation occur outside of school hours. Many teachers arrive early, stay late, and spend part of their weekends working to ensure that they are adequately prepared. They explore options, tinker with changes, and research fresh ideas in hopes that they can create the optimal learning environment.
Teaching is not something you can do effectively on the fly. It requires a healthy blend of content knowledge, instructional strategies, and classroom management tactics. Preparation and planning play a critical role in the development of these things. It also takes some experimentation and even a little luck. It is important to note that even well-planned lessons can quickly fall apart. Some of the best-conceived ideas will end up being massive failures when put into practice. When this happens, teachers have to go back to the drawing board and reorganize their approach and plan of attack.
The bottom line is that preparation and planning do matter. It can never be viewed as a waste of time. Instead, it should be viewed as an investment. This is an investment that will pay off in the long run.
Six Ways Proper Preparation and Planning Will Pay Off
- Make you a better teacher: A significant part of planning and preparation is conducting research. Studying educational theory and examining best practices helps define and shape your own teaching philosophy. Studying the content that you teach in depth will also help you grow and improve.
- Boost student performance and achievement: As a teacher, you should have the content that you teach mastered. You should understand what you are teaching, why you are teaching it, and you should create a plan for how to present it to your students every single day. This ultimately benefits your students. It is your job as a teacher to not only present the information but to present in a way that resonates with the students and makes it important enough for them to want to learn it. This comes through planning, preparation, and experience.
- Make the day go by faster: Downtime is a teacher's worst enemy. Many teachers use the term “free time”. This is simple code for I did not take the time to plan enough. Teachers should prepare and plan enough material to last the entire class period or school day. Every second of every day should matter. When you plan enough students remain engaged, the day goes by quicker, and ultimately student learning is maximized.
- Minimize classroom discipline issues: Boredom is the number one cause of acting out. Teachers who develop and present engaging lessons on a daily basis rarely have classroom discipline issues. Students enjoy going to these classes because learning is fun. These types of lessons do not just happen. Instead, they are created through careful planning and preparation.
- Make you confident in what you do: Confidence is an important characteristic for a teacher to possess. If for nothing else, portraying confidence will help your students buy what you are selling. As a teacher, you never want to ask yourself if you could have done more to reach a student or group of students. You might not like how a particular lesson goes, but you should take pride in knowing that it was not because you lacked in preparation and planning.
- Help earn the respect of your peers and administrators: Teachers know which teachers are putting in the necessary time to be an effective teacher and which teachers are not. Investing extra time in your classroom will not go unnoticed by those around you. They may not always agree with how you run your classroom, but they will have a natural respect for you when they see how hard you work at your craft.
Strategies for More Efficient Planning
The first three years of teaching are the most difficult. Spend lots of extra time planning and preparing during those first few years as you are learning the nuances of teaching and sequential years will become easier.
Keep all lesson plans, activities, tests, quizzes, worksheets, etc. in a binder. Make notes throughout the binder according to what worked, what did not, and how you might want to change things.
Every idea does not have to be original. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. The Internet is the greatest teaching resource ever made. There are lots of excellent ideas from other teachers floating around that you can steal and utilize in your classroom.
Work in a distraction-free environment. You will get a lot more accomplished when there are no other teachers, students, or family members around to distract you.
Read the chapters, complete homework/practice problems, take tests/quizzes before assigning them to students. It will take some time to do this upfront, but reviewing and experiencing the material before your students do will ultimately protect your credibility.
When conducting an activity, have all the materials laid out before the students arrive. Practice the activity to ensure that each works correctly. Establish specific procedures and guidelines for students to follow.
Plan days to weeks in advance if possible. Do not wait until the last minute to try to throw something together. Doing so limits your effectiveness.